|Annunciation - Rosetti|
Saturday, December 9, 2017
BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS
This week has been a swirl of endings and beginnings, some of them little and others momentous, although it’s not always easy to tell one from the other.
ENDINGS. Wednesday I finally emailed to Liturgical Press the manuscript of a possible book Easter meditations -- definitely felt like an ending. That night my cousin Peggy in Pittsburgh passed away; she had been very sick in recent weeks; another ending. The readings at mass this past week have been referring to the “end time,” when Christ will come again; that qualifies as an ending, right.
BEGINNINGS. Of course, the First Week of Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year. Then, on Thursday night postulant Mark Dilone began his year-long novitiate period -- a beginning that’s a great sign of hope for our monastery. The next day, the gospel reading for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary was Luke’s account of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel greets the maiden Mary with strange news: God is on the move again, but this time the Word is to become flesh and will dwell among us as one of us; that’s more than new, it’s unheard-of.
TWO FACES. Most philosophers have realized that beginnings are also endings. The Romans had this god called Janus, the god of doorways and thresholds. His image often appeared above the lintels of Roman houses: a head with two faces looking in exactly opposite directions. Janus didn’t have to decide if he was blessing a going or a coming, a beginning or an ending on any specific occasion.
The Israelites' faith had a similar insight: God is the God of history, and the darkest of times always gave way to new and brighter realities, and things that looked like endings usually turned out be beginnings of something new that God has planned.
The pairing of endings and beginnings is brought to a climax in the Christian faith in the paschal mystery: What appears to be the end of Jesus's life (his death and burial) marks the beginning of something not just new, but immeasurably better, a transformed, immortal life in which all of us will eventually share.
So, as I drive out to Pittsburgh for the funeral, I’ll have lots to think about. During this season when we chant "O Come, O come, Emmanuel," we're also praying for the coming of the One who conquers death itself, and who assures us that Peggy's death is also the beginning of her life in the presence of God, who is Love -- boundless, perfect Love.