March 28, 2021
Some thoughts for the younger people in the spring of life and worth the consideration of those of us in our autumn as well.
You’ll be amazed, when you reach 60 or more, how fast the years have passed. In the spring and summer of youth time can seem to stand still. There’s s so much to experience, to know, to absorb, and to live, and everything seems to be in the moment. It’s an amazing time of life with the potential for adventure, romance, and horizons extending beyond the sky.
Somewhere in your 30’s, though, you’ll start to notice that when you were young and ambitious and busy time was also moving at that same pace. You’ll first see it in the face that looks back at you in the mirror, and then, perhaps in the realization you have children and are more like your parents then you could have ever imagined. When you look up from your work you’ll start to notice the carefree days have slipped into responsible adulthood and your body will remind you that just exercising without warming up is not such a good idea. These are the days when you discover the necessity, and the pleasure, of an afternoon nap and sometimes you may look out your window and wonder where all those kids you hung out with are now, what they’re doing, and if they’re happy.
Those introspections often don’t last too long. After all, there’s soccer practice and extra paperwork from the job, and a lawn needing to be mowed. Someone must pay for that boat you just bought, and the season tickets and that someone is you. As quickly as you begin to ponder about life, the journey, and the deeper meaning of things the thoughts are snatched away by a whirlwind of tasks to maintain everything you have and ensure there’ll be more in the future. Your mortgage is infinitely more effective in getting you up in the morning than any alarm clock. So in to the car you go and off to the office you race and every time you almost get the carrot you discover someone else further up the flow chart has just made the stick a little bit longer.
Over time a kind of world weariness can set in, the adventure begins to dim, and somewhere, in a place you dare not admit exists to even those closest to you, you’ll ask “Is this what it’s all about, is this life?” Is this why I’m here to work and pay and buy and work some more and maybe get a weekend at the cabin every so often? And the possibility the answer is “Yes” can leave you empty inside or even scare the hell out of you because so much has already been invested, so much energy given, so much time spent, so many inevitabilities taken for granted even as we discover a restlessness within, the caged animal feeling of being trapped in a space that tires us even as we feel bound to it hand and foot, body and soul.
Yet within each of us is also a quiet place, a sacred garden, the remnants of a lost Eden, a place of quiet, of peace, a holy ground where God, if we wish it, can walk with us in the cool of the evening and we can be naked and unashamed. And in many moment of solitude, of quiet it will call to us like a distant homeland or the breaking of a morning’s dawn.
This is the place which was washed clean, set right, and returned to its primal holiness in our baptism and filled with the Holy Spirit in our chrismation. It is our heart and soul, a sacred garden and the true home of the person God meant you to be, the deified body and soul God breathed his life into at the dawn of time and the one your destiny when time gives way to eternity.
Alas, the busyness of life too often takes over. The brokenness, the tasks, the sins, the good things twisted into darkness, and the noise of the world have left our sacred gardens unvisited, untended, choked with weeds, and a remnant of their former beauty. And in the quiet moments, the time away from chasing carrots on sticks God allows us to get a glimpse of that place, and as we do we may, in a moment of sanity, despair at its disrepair even as we long for its glorious holy presence. We know there is an Eden within and when we come to our senses we weep because we ourselves have chosen to wander away from its pleasantness for the sake of an illusion, a mirage in the desert, a dream that wakes us up shivering in bed. In the busyness of life we have neglected our salvation, the promise given by angels and reality revealed when Christ walked among us.
Yet all is not lost.
Even in the busyness of life we can, if we wish, return to that sacred garden within. We can still ourselves, our lives, our thoughts, and, in those moments when we reflect only on God, and our life turns from noise to holiness, begin the journey back to what is both our ancestral and heavenly home, the normal that should have always been. In our Liturgy, before we receive the Holy Gifts we ask as Priests on behalf of you all God’s help in laying aside all earthly cares so we can receive the king of all who arrives on angelic wings and becomes the bread of life. This great grace is not just for the moment of sacred liturgy but also for every day of our life.
We don’t have to be a monastic to seek out and live in the presence of God, to reside, again, in the sacred garden. We can do so now if we choose, but we must choose, to be still, to set the present aside for a time and to look at ourselves as we really are, how far we’ve come and how far we need to travel, and resolve to become not what the world has told us we must be but rather what a loving God has called us to be in the still, small, voice we can hear even in life’s chatter if we are ready to listen.
We marvel at the words, the lives, of great saints, mothers and fathers of our spiritual life and yet we’ve forgotten these gifts were given to them because they chose to seek them, these miracles were part of their lives because they were open to the possibility, and they could hear the voice of God because they chose to be quiet and listen. They did not neglect their salvation and in return they were lit from within by a holy light.
As we travel through this Lent please understand it’s not the giving up of food and drink so much as making space, again, for God in our lives, to return to the sacred garden within and having a vision of its possibilities and perfections, commit ourselves to pulling out the weeds, watering the ground, and rejoicing in it’s beauty. One can follow the diet to perfection and if there is no time or place to be present with God it’s futility at best. That time with God, without agenda, without any other purpose than to be with and in Him is Lent’s object and the source of all holy endeavor. Without it even the good things we do are just that, things.
And the truth is, once having returned to our inner sacred garden everything else finds its perspective. The things we often thought so important because the TV told us they were will lose their value. Every bauble that once caught our eye will fade as we gaze on the face of our Savior. Yes, we will live in the world as we must but we will live differently because we’ve already found our place, our destiny, and our home. The world may scream and holler at us but in the quiet holiness of our recovered Eden the power of those voices will dissolve. We may labor for our daily bread but that labor will be filled with joy as it becomes absorbed into the greater heavenly labor of prayer, worship, stillness, and the holy. We may question the meaning of our lives because this is a human thing to do but within our hearts we will know we need no longer be restless because we have found our rest in God. We may wonder sometimes who we are but in that sacred garden our Lord will tell us the only words we need to hear on the matter, “You are mine and I am yours, forever.”
Those who seek will find. Those who ask will find answers. Those who knock will have the door opened. And those whose only and basic desire is to know and love God will find themselves and eternity as well.