When I walk into work I do so, for part of my journey, under the gaze of a huge black locust, visibly devouring my time!. I refer to Corpus Christi’s magnificent golden Chronophage, which I pass on my way to St. Edward’s and in particular to the monstrous locust perched on top of it, which is constantly, as the name chronophage suggests, eating time. This bizarre and beautiful clock, or rather public sculpture, is certainly a great success for the college and attracts a more or less constant crowd of intrigued onlookers. I was there at its unveiling by Stephen Hawking, and enjoyed his brief reflections, not on the science, but on the mystery of time, indeed his reflections seemed richer to me than the rather closed message delivered by the Chronophage itself, I would like in what follows to reflect for a moment and to challenge what the Chronophage seems to be saying about time.
The Chronophage sees only that time that is constantly consumed, it sees our minutes hasten to their end; it measures ‘the years that the locust hath eaten’. This is certainly one aspect of our experience of time, but only one. Time is fleeting, but it is also constantly renewed, and for every worn and spent moment that is taken from us another is given, pristine and beautiful.
So having walked past the Chronophage, I imagine, as I continue on my way to St. Edwards, a different image. I see in my mind’s eye,on the tower of St. Edwards another beautiful clock with round golden circles like the Corpus Choronopgage. Like the Chronophage it takes its motion from a point beyond itself, but unlike the Chronophage, in my imaginary sculpture, time is not being clawed back and consumed; it is being poured out liberally and constantly renewed. I have Christened it my Chronodor, my time-giver. It witnesses to God’s promise, in the book of Joel: ‘I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten.’
In my imaginary sculpture the figure above the golden circles is not a ravenous locust but an angel of God, taking the riches of eternity and pouring them out in a flowing stream moment by moment into the circles of time. Such was the vision of Dante, who saw time and motion as ultimately given and renewed by Divine Love, by what he called, in the last line of his great poem; ‘the Love that moves the sun and the other stars.’
The Corpus Chronophage cost a cool million. My Chronodor is completely free, an image of God’s mysterious liberality reminding me to receive and cherish each new moment as a gift from a loving God