Hans Urs von Balthasar on Keeping Time Like Children


"The child has come to take time as it comes, one day at a time, calmly, without advance planning or greedy hoarding of time. Time to play, time to sleep. He knows nothing of appointment books in which every moment has already been sold in advance. When Paul exhorts us to 'buy up the time' (Col. 4:5; Eph. 5:16) he probably means precisely the opposite, that is, that we ought not to squander hours and days like cheap merchandise but that we should live the time that is given us now, in all its fullness: but the point is neither to 'enjoy it to the full' nor to 'make the most of it', but only that we should receive with gratitude the full cup that is handed to us. The moment is full because in it all of time is gathered up, effortlessly as it were. The present moment contains the memory of already having received as much as the hope of receiving time now. This is why the child is not afraid at the fleetingness of the present moment: stopping to consider it would hinder us from accepting the moment in its fullness, would keep us from 'buying it up', from ransoming it. 

Play is possible only when time is so conceived, and also the unresisting welcome we give to sleep. And only with time of this quality can the Christian find God in all things, just as Christ found the Father in all things. Pressured man on the run is always postponing his encounter with God to a 'free moment' or a 'time of prayer' that must constantly be rescheduled, a time that he must laboriously wrest from his overburdened workday. A child that knows God can find him at every moment because every moment opens up for him and shows him the very ground of time: as it if reposed on eternity itself. And this eternity, without undergoing change, walks hand in hand for the child with transitory time. God defines himself as 'I am who I am', which also means: My being is such that I shall always be present in every moment of becoming."

Hans Urs von Balthasar, Unless You Become Like This Childpp. 53-55.