I served a Church in the course of ministry in which a large group of my members were educated (in a way few are today), thoughtful and of an age similar to that of my parents or a few years older. They belonged to that “greatest generation,” veterans the Second World War or deeply enmeshed in the economic and military structures that swept an entire culture into a new way of being. It inevitably became my lot to listen to their stories during their last days – to hear that of their children – and finally to give voice to what I had seen and heard in a spoken word of faith that was part of the ritual of their passing.
It was not the passing of giants, though their accomplishments outstripped in many ways the generation that followed. But they were larger men and women – if only for the fact that many of them had known death far more intimately than their heirs do – and in knowing death – knew their own limits and in that humility knew God.
In the past three years, sped along by the past month, I have buried my parents with a spoken word of faith, buried my spiritual father in the figure of Archbishop Dmitri. All three of whom belonged to that larger generation. They had buried their parents and many of their loved ones. My mother and father had seen the death of war and the poverty of the Depression-Era South. There was no perfection, other than lives that were full – sometimes of joy – sometimes of hope – sometimes of the Sturm und Drang that threatened to sweep us all away.
And now I stand as witness to what I have seen and known, a challenged man who need no longer measure his existence by transient marks. Coming face to face with that transcience and the empty offerings it yields for existence, I long for a greater measure – not necessarily perceptible to anyone else – the wondrous fullness of Christ. There is nothing to be found in the past – I cannot go there and do anything other than give thanks for it all and forgive it.
The Greatness stands in this moment, in this new day. I will either join my voice with the eternal chorus of witnessing cloud, or disappear in the soundless mumble of a heart growing numb. I choose to light the candle and begin the day surrounded by icons who announce to new day, and with them lift my no longer orphaned voice. “Blessed is our God, always now and ever and unto the ages of ages.”