Tertio Millennio Adveniente
Toward the Third Millennium
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9. Speaking of the birth of the Son of God, Saint Paul places this event in the "fullness of time" (cf. Gal 4:4). Time is indeed fulfilled by the very fact that God, in the Incarnation, came down into human history. Eternity entered into time: what "fulfilment" could be greater than this? What other "fulfilment" would be possible? Some have thought in terms of certain mysterious cosmic cycles in which the history of the universe, and of mankind in particular, would constantly repeat itself. True, man rises from the earth and returns to it (cf. Gen 3:19): this is an immediately evident fact. Yet in man there is an irrepressible longing to live forever. How are we to imagine a life beyond death? Some have considered various forms of reincarnation: depending on one's previous life, one would receive a new life in either a higher or lower form, until full purification is attained. This belief, deeply rooted in some Eastern religions, itself indicates that man rebels against the finality of death. He is convinced that his nature is essentially spiritual and immortal.

Christian revelation excludes reincarnation, and speaks of a fulfilment which man is called to achieve in the course of a single earthly existence. Man achieves this fulfilment of his destiny through the sincere gift of self, a gift which is made possible only through his encounter with God. It is in God that man finds full self-realization: this is the truth revealed by Christ. Man fulfils himself in God, who comes to meet him through his Eternal Son. Thanks to God's coming on earth, human time, which began at Creation, has reached its fullness. "The fullness of time" is in fact eternity, indeed, it is the One who is eternal, God himself. Thus, to enter into "the fullness of time" means to reach the end of time and to transcend its limits, in order to find time's fulfilment in the eternity of God.

10. In Christianity time has a fundamental importance. Within the dimension of time the world was created; within it the history of salvation unfolds, finding its culmination in the "fullness of time" of the Incarnation, and its goal in the glorious return of the Son of God at the end of time. In Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, time becomes a dimension of God, who is himself eternal. With the coming of Christ there begin "the last days" (cf. Heb 1:2), the "last hour" (cf. 1 Jn 2:18), and the time of the Church, which will last until the Parousia.

From this relationship of God with time there arises the duty to sanctify time. This is done, for example, when individual times, days or weeks, are dedicated to God, as once happened in the religion of the Old Covenant, and as happens still, though in a new way, in Christianity. In the liturgy of the Easter Vigil the celebrant, as he blesses the candle which symbolizes the Risen Christ, proclaims: "Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega, all time belongs to him, and all the ages, to him be glory and power through every age for ever". He says these words as he inscribes on the candle the numerals of the current year. The meaning of this rite is clear: it emphasizes the fact that Christ is the Lord of time; he is its beginning and its end; every year, every day and every moment are embraced by his Incarnation and Resurrection, and thus become part of the "fullness of time". For this reason, the Church too lives and celebrates the liturgy in the span of a year. The solar year is thus permeated by the liturgical year, which in a certain way reproduces the whole mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption, beginning from the First Sunday of Advent and ending on the Solemnity of Christ the King, Lord of the Universe and Lord of History. Every Sunday commemorates the day of the Lord's Resurrection.

11. Against this background, we can understand the custom of Jubilees, which began in the Old Testament and continues in the history of the Church. Jesus of Nazareth, going back one day to the synagogue of his home town, stood up to read (cf. Lk 4:16-30). Taking the book of the Prophet Isaiah, he read this passage: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour" (61:1-2).

The Prophet was speaking of the Messiah. "Today", Jesus added, "this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Lk 4:21), thus indicating that he himself was the Messiah foretold by the Prophet, and that the long-expected "time" was beginning in him. The day of salvation had come, the "fullness of time". All Jubilees point to this "time" and refer to the Messianic mission of Christ, who came as the one "anointed" by the Holy Spirit, the one "sent by the Father". It is he who proclaims the good news to the poor. It is he who brings liberty to those deprived of it, who frees the oppressed and gives back sight to the blind (cf. Mt 11:4-5; Lk 7:22). In this way he ushers in "a year of the Lord's favour", which he proclaims not only with his words but above all by his actions. The Jubilee, "a year of the Lord's favour", characterizes all the activity of Jesus; it is not merely the recurrence of an anniversary in time.

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