A Reflection for the Passing of Time
There are few experiences more breathtaking to me than show-shoeing under a full moon. I discovered snow-shoeing only a few years ago as I began to realize that my aging joints could no longer withstand the daily pounding of running and the ski slopes filled up with tykes on rocket-powered snow-boards. And so it was in late December three years ago that I found myself slooshing through the field behind our home in Parker, CO across a foot of freshly fallen and untrodden snow. This field became my playground at such times as the trail followed a deep wash that terminated down into the Sulfur Gulch creek that meandered its way along a tree lined bank. The silence of the night was punctuated only by the sound of my own breathing as I stopped to rest for a moment and gave down at the lights of our little suburb twinkling in the chill air.
It had been a challenging year at the Cathedral with a full sacramental schedule, far too many funerals, and many significant comings and goings. I tried to remember each of the faces of those faithful Orthodox Christians I had laid in the ground over the course of the year and wondered how many more beloved parishioners would complete their earthly sojourn in the months ahead. And so I began to pray that whatever the new year held for the Cathedral parish, for my family members, and for me would be unveiled with a liberal measure of the grace of God needed to meet these yet unknown trials, obstacles, and blessings faithfully.
The beginning of each new year always makes me feel rather small as I contemplate the relentless passage of time and realize how insignificant our little footsteps through the brief span of our life really are. But I also become inspired as I picture in the mind’s eye the untrodden vista of a new year stretching out before me and patiently awaiting the marks I might dare to make upon its surface. We take too lightly, I think, the rich and unrepeatable opportunity each new year brings to us and mostly fail to apply ourselves to the enormous task of personal and spiritual growth that is, after all, the very purpose of the Life in Christ. To look back upon the year now nearly over with a certain air of wistfulness is certainly cathartic in its own way and, certainly affords one the possibility of reflection, repentance, and gratitude. But the very next step in this rumination must be to swivel around 180 degrees to peer into the future and to resolve to apply whatever lessons we may have learned in the old year to the new.
New Year’s resolutions are a long-standing theme of the season but they seem to have lost whatever weight and commitment they may once have possessed. It is axiomatic that resolutions are glibly stated with a wink and a nod but with the sure knowledge that no one ever really intends to read more books, watch less television, drop those unhealthy and unwanted pounds, floss between meals, etc. We feel very dis-empowered these days, shaped and jostled by faceless and nameless forces that set the agenda for us and for the world around us so completely that all we can do is race to keep up with the daily grind. But this deterministic view of life ought never be accepted by those who walk the narrow path as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven which is not of this world.
“For all the promises of God are in Him yes, and in Him amen, to the glory of God.” (2 Cor.1:20) And the Lord promised us “behold, I make all things new.” (Rev. 21:5) and “therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” and “if any man be in Christ he is a new creature, old things have passed away and behold all things are become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17) For the one who humbly but resolutely follows the Crucified One through the pathways of life, every day that dawns is New Years Day! Every day carries within itself the promise of transformation, the opportunity to imbibe deeply of the rich mercies of God, to experience in the deepest places of our beings the transcendent Grace of God sufficient to overcome any and all of the obstacles thrown before us.
The year now fading into memory behind us is one that our family will, frankly, be very happy to see safely “in the books.” Some years are like that; freighted with unforeseen challenges and epic change. But God in His mercy veils the full measure of such years from our eyes, wisely meting out to us those challenges and tests on a daily and even hourly basis. But as we turn to face the new year of 2013 this we know most assuredly; God’s grace is and will ever be sufficient for whatever lies ahead. In our little parish of St. George here in Prescott we anticipate the continued growth of our membership in the year ahead. We eagerly look forward to the continued expansion of our parish ministries; in a full and vibrant liturgical rhythm of many services as we consecrate ourselves through prayer, in an ever-widening array of parish youth and family ministries for our youngest tots, adolescents, teens, college students, young adults, and elderly, in a rigorous and thorough-going parish catechism ministry that equips each of us with the transformational “knowing” that only the Holy Spirit can impart, and in the many other intricacies of parish life yet undiscovered.
But all of these rich and life-changing opportunities will not and cannot manifest themselves and bear fruit in our lives without our active engagement in the life of the parish. It is for us to “order (our) steps according to Your word, and let not iniquity have dominion over me.” (Ps. 119:133) We must do our part! So as we sit down with our new 2013 calendar in the days ahead to plan our schedules with the daily and weekly rhythms of life let us not fail to hard-wire into every moment of our life the awareness of the presence of God by meticulously planning to be present in the Divine Services of the Church, by participating in the many ministries offered in the parish, by setting the example for our children, spouses, family members, and friends in the real-life decisions we make and in the priorities we set.
As I stood on the copse of the little hillock gazing out over the little city of Parker snug under a blanket of white three years ago, and as my ruminations came to a close, I exhaled a puff of air and turned for home to snow-shoe my way back along the pathway through the meadow. And I did so strengthened in the knowledge that “God is with us” and that He, in a very personal way, is even with me. May He Who deigned to be incarnate for us and for our salvation, Christ our True God, be with each of us in the days ahead!
Fr. Apostolos Hill
St. George Orthodox Church of Prescott, AZ