The ancient Greeks had two words for time: chronos and kairos.
Chronos is the passage of ordinary time; hours, days, months, years, however we measure that mysterious quality.
Kairos is the idea of time as being of significance; that quality of a period of time that holds a more profound significance than any other time. “It was the right time,” we say. The Bible is full of it, particularly the gospels, with their theme of fulfilment. We all have experienced it.
For many of us it may have been when a question was put about a proposal for a long-term commitment! Although even then, the kairos time may not have exactly been in strict alignment between the parties. I know that according to another party, I was quite late in that regard. But it was kind of fun to surprise her when the proposal was “eventually” put. My excuse was I was waiting for the kairos time.
I worry somewhat that we in the West are now almost completely dominated by chronos time; the mechanical passing of time that has no inherent or deeper meaning. I know I’m caught up in it: the priorities that are set by all the engagements and commitments we have entered into, the management of all these commitments, from bill paying to preparing for events of strategic importance.
It’s all encompassing. Life becomes a mechanical processing of matters—not unimportant matters, but still a processing. Even recreational time is something to be managed.
That’s where the church year seeks to intentionally break into the now dominant profane space with another view. The question is, is it just another chronos event to be managed by we who are the centre of our own universe, or will it be kairos time?
Each Sunday holds for us the possibility of being a kairos space. That’s its purpose. The seasons of the church’s year are attempts to create space for kairos times.
So we find ourselves again being asked to prepare for the great feast of Easter by journeying through Lent. Traditionally, it’s a time of sober reflection on our life’s journey and who we are becoming. A time to exercise some restraint on all that would demand priority—from our bodies to our significant others, to everything else—and take stock, to meditate on the passion of Jesus and see what it says to us, to who we are.
Not easy work, but strangely liberating and life-giving and full of the possibility of a kairos time.
Rev David Baker
Moderator, Queensland Synod