For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance, a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
Blog November 27, 2015
From one year to the next . . .
As we continue to enjoy turkey sandwiches, turkey casseroles, and turkey soup these days after Thanksgiving, this is one of those years when Thanksgiving is put away and Advent is brought out all the same weekend. Our Advent wreath will be put out tomorrow evening on our dining room table and stockings will be dug out of storage to make sure they are hung on the mantle before December 6th, the feast of St. Nicholas. We savor the beginning of a new Cycle and a New Year by gradually introducing Christmas in our home, putting up the Christmas tree just days before Christmas. This Advent time is the time for reflecting and waiting and anticipation. We pause to think about what we learned this past year, what we lost, and what we gained and what may lie ahead. An appreciation for family roots was gained by our trip to Ireland, England and Wales this past summer, where we met distant cousins and family members. I was given the opportunity to pause long enough to enjoy the beautiful Jesuit retreat house in St. Asaph, Wales for eight days of that trip. We felt a deep loss this fall when our favorite and last “house” dog, Joey, our English Setter, had to be put down about six weeks ago, but more recently, we have welcomed a new member to our family in the canine department, a 15-month old Irish Setter named Maverick. His formal name is more true to his character though: Organized Chaos! The New Year will soon be beginning and we do not know where it will take us. Soon, the holiday baking and shopping will commence, and the Christmas choir concerts and shows will unfold. Bill filled so many Thanksgiving baskets with our local St. Vincent de Paul that he lost count, and the chairman has told him to expect the same as Christmas nears. The need is so great for those among us who do not have enough food.
2016 may be a year of surprises, and certainly a year of the unknown, but for now, we pause to give thanks and continue to wonder at the beauty of the earth, and the love of our God, who loved us so much that he gave the world his only begotten son!
Once again, our blog and updates have fallen behind as funerals have continued their steady march this autumn season. Our cousin in New Hampshire went home to God in September, followed by the parish custodian of many years last month and a special friend of ours this past week. Her funeral will be Wednesday. Bill and I thought we might fly to CA during my semester break to see our sister-in-law, who is also battling pancreatic cancer, but today received word that she suffered a stroke this morning and now can no longer talk nor recognize others. There is so much sadness and loss all around us. Yet Psalm 90 has been a comfort as we have waded through this valley of darkness, and have reflected on why we are here to begin with . . .
The psalmist tells us:
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.
You turn us back to dust, and say “Turn back, you mortals.” For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night.
You sweep them away; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning; in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.
For we are consumed by your anger; by your wrath we are overwhelmed. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
For all our days pass away under your wrath; our years come to an end like a sigh. The days of our lives are seventy years, or perhaps eighty if we are strong; even then their span is only toil and trouble; they are soon gone and we fly away.
Who considers the power of your anger? Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you. So teach us to count our days, that we may gain a wise heart.
Turn, O Lord! How long? Have compassion on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be manifest to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of our Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands – O prosper the work of our hands!
Our years are like a dream – passing like the morning grass – 70 if we are fortunate, 80 if we are strong. But our God is a God of steadfast love, and one who continually calls us home. Being immersed in funerals, we begin to think of our own mortality and take stock of where we are on our own journey back to God.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and by our standards, it was a small dinner only seven of us, since many had traveled to Virginia to spend the holiday with other siblings for the first year without Pepere. We chose to stay home. We still need time and space to adjust to holidays without Bill’s Dad. We gave thanks to God at Church, noting that God has no need whatsoever of our thanks, but we are the ones who need to do the thanking. Thanking God creates grateful hearts.
This evening is the last day of Ordinary Time and the Church’s End of the Year. Tomorrow, we will begin the wonderful season of anticipation called Advent. It is a truly contemplative season, a wonderful period of stillness and quiet where we are invited to wait patiently, pray intensely and prepare eagerly for the arrival of the Light that shall shine on Christmas Day, according to Brother Victor-Antoine D’Avila Latourrette. There is a beautiful Advent hymn made famous years ago by the Monks of the Western Priory in Vermont, entitled “Winter’s Coming Home”. The lyrics tie together the seasonal changes and our longings for “our true home”:
leaves are falling down and round
crystal clear and certain,
that winter’s coming home.
Ah, yes again,
The mellow sun is cooler,
days are short
and nights are longer by the fire
of brother’s love;
the ev’ning speaks of hearts together now
that harvest’s done
and gone to rest,
for winter’s coming home.
Gregory Norbert, OSB
It snowed lightly today. It is a wonder to take in the beauty of the seasons as they change, and to reflect on the lives that have been fulfilled and have “gone home” to God. As we embark on the wonderful season of Advent, may we take time to reflect on the beauty of our “coming home” to the One who loves us without measure!
Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!!