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Kairos – What Does it mean ?

Kairos  – (καιρός) is an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment (the supreme moment). The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies a time lapse, a moment of indeterminate time in which everything happens.

In the New Testament kairos means “the appointed time in the purpose of God”, the time when God acts (e.g. Mark 1.15, the kairos is fulfilled). Kairos (used approximately 81 times in the NT) seems to be an indeterminate time, a “moment” or a “season,” whereas another Greek term chronos (used 54 times) refers to a specific amount of time, such as a day or an hour (Acts 13.18, 27.9, etc.).

In the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, before the Divine Liturgy begins, the Deacon exclaims to the Priest, «Καιρός του ποιήσα τω Κυρίω’», Kairos tou poiesai to Kyrio, ” (“It is time [kairos] for the Lord to act”);  indicating that the time of the Liturgy is an intersection with Eternity.

In The Interpretation of History, neo-orthodox Lutheran theologian Paul Tillich made prominent use of the term. For him, the kairoi are those crises in history (see Christian existentialism) which create an opportunity for, and indeed demand, an existential decision by the human subject – the coming of Christ being the prime example (compare Karl Barth’s use of Geschichte as opposed to Historie). In the Kairos Document, an example of liberation theology in South Africa under apartheid, the term kairos is used to denote “the appointed time”, “the crucial time” into which the document or text is spoken.

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