The Greek philosopher Heraclitus observed, "You can never step into the same river twice." It will not be the same river nor the same you.

As we come to the end of this year and begin a new year, we observe the passing of time and the flow of our own life with it. You can never relive a moment of your life, and you cannot know what the future holds. The challenge of time is to cherish our present life, have gratitude for our past and have hope for the future.

One cannot reflect on the passing of time without wondering about eternity, as Saint Augustine did so profoundly in Book 11 of his Confessions.

Mathematicians use the concept of infinity, and astronomers ponder the idea of unlimited space and unending time, although some scientists are skeptical about the Christian concept of eternity and eternal life.

Scripture offers many thoughts on eternity but few specific details. The Old Testament speaks of an indefinite extension of time with such expressions as "from age to age" and "from generation to generation." When these terms are applied to God, they acquire the meaning of time without beginning or end. The Book of Psalms teaches us God existed before creation and lives from age to age, in contrast to humans whose life is only a shadow. For the Psalmist, God endures from age to age and from generation to generation. To him, a thousand years are but a day. God has an existence that transcends time.

In the New Testament, these concepts are applied to Jesus Christ. The Letter to the Hebrews said, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever."

The Gospel of John said, "He was in the beginning with God," professing the preexistence of Christ and his share in the eternal life of God, the Father. John's Gospel also offers the remarkable promise that we can share in the life of God through Christ and come to life eternal. That is the message of "the Gospel in miniature," John 3:16, "God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life." At the death of Lazarus, Christ proclaimed to Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me will never die."

As the final grains of sand flow through the hourglass of this year and we look forward to a new year, Christians ponder the meaning of time and eternity.

The Volga-German immigrants who settled in this area brought with them a New Year's wish that expresses their cherished values of faith, family and friends. Seniors of that heritage can "wuensch" in the original German. Here is an English translation: "I wish you a happy New Year, long life, health, peace, harmony and, after this life, life eternal."

Father Earl Meyer is the director of the Capuchin Center for the Spiritual Life in Victoria. Statements of Faith is a series sharing lessons from local church leaders and members. To submit a column for publication, contact the Hays Daily News at (785) 628-1081.