In our collective imagination, God appears to be quite old. This corresponds to the icon of the so-called New Testament Trinity, where the Son of God Jesus Christ is symbolically blessed by God sitting on the royal throne in the form of an old man. Moreover, it is in this icon that the “old age of God” is emphatically old. In the Bible, God is called the “ancient of days.” “I finally saw that thrones were set up; and the Ancient of Days sat down: His robe was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool; His throne is like a flame of fire, His wheels are like blazing fire” (Acts 7:9), it is written in the book of the prophet Daniel.
This generally accepted idea of the absolute old age of God is echoed by metaphysics. At the same time, it goes her own way. The God of philosophy is inaccessible to man. He is invisible, incomprehensible. He is not limited by anything. These are the basic settings with which any seminarian begins the study of dogmatics.
At the same time, in the light of 21st century theology, it is obvious to us that all these extremely lofty definitions of God are one-sided. They act only in one direction. They only apply to us people. After all, we are limited and mortal. God, in Christ Jesus, makes Himself accessible and limited. He, according to the words of one of the medieval theologians, took upon Himself all of ours and gave us all His. In the Eucharist we partake of this mystery.
“The length of our days is seventy years – or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for the quickly pass, and we fly away,” says the Psalms (Ps. 90:10). Over the years, a person becomes wiser, his behavior and morals become better. Suffering and illness ennoble and teach understanding. On a biblical level of understanding, these words are true.
But at the everyday level, they turn out to be generally accepted stereotypes, which are refuted by reality itself. Over the years, a person becomes embittered. Habits are cemented by experience. In old age, only family can truly love a person. In this sense, the secular prophet of our times, Steve Jobs, was right when, in his Stanford speech, he argued that the brevity of human life is, in fact, a blessing for others.
New Testament thinking allows us to agree with this, and, at the same time, to think further and deeper. We are used to seeing God as older than us. In popular piety, for centuries and even millennia, He was represented as an old man. This perception can be helpful, but it can also be harmful. Because it hides meanings from us.
“Late did I love You, Beauty, so ancient and so young, late did I love You,” St. Augustine writes about God (354–430). This ancient thinker, who was a bishop of the North African Carthaginian Church, is credited by the history of philosophy with the invention of the very idea of time. Speaking about time and the temporality of man, Augustine turns to the thought of God and claims that among all living beings He is the youngest. God is young. He renews existence. He is younger than each of us and younger than everything in the world.
This paradoxical statement of theological thought reveals many meanings. It turns out that in true youth there is godlikeness. It is present in the desire to learn, in the idealism and romanticism of the perception of ordinary things. The willingness to selflessly change this world for the better was the inspiration of the saints. Faith manifested itself in them in the ability to constantly create themselves anew for the benefit of their neighbors. “Reverence for life,” as Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965) once wrote. This godlike youth of God inspired the ancient saints whom the Church remembers in these autumnal, last times.