Crossing the Bar

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.”

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11 Responses to “Crossing the Bar”

  1. Leonard Nugent Says:

    Father may the memory of your mom and dad, and Archbishop Dmitri be eternal!

  2. MichaelPatrick Says:

    Father, this sober poetry is graced by joy of living drawn from the source. Thank you for sharing your intimate reflection with such gentle and inspiring beauty.

  3. Mark Says:

    What words! It is a gift to my generation to hear these things.
    Thank you father;
    -Mark

  4. Andrew Says:

    Amen and Alleluia!

  5. Margaret Says:

    At the end of your post here you write:

    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.”

    I think I will print this out and read it along side the morning prayer of St. Philaret, it is such a blessing!!! Thank you!!!

  6. Marion Says:

    A good and worthy choice. I will make the effort to let that thought encourage and strengthen my heart and resolve.

    Presvy. Marion

  7. Alice C. Linsley Says:

    Father, thank you. I needed to read this right now to regain perspective.

  8. Andrew Says:

    Thank-you Father. It is a solemn reminder in this generation of “first world problems” that with struggle and without endless gratification one can seek a truer understanding of self through Christ.

    Memory Eternal to your parents and beloved Spiritual Father

    andrew

  9. Drewster2000 Says:

    By chance I saw this quote today and it seemed to be written in response to your post. By chance?

    “No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.”

    — Saint Ignatius of Antioch

  10. Visibilium Says:

    The irony associated with contemporary televised paeans to the Greatest Generation consists in the simple historical fact that many of the singers had condemned that Generation as conformist, Organization-Man tools 45 years ago.

  11. fatherstephen Says:

    Ironic, perhaps a mark of getting older oneself, or simply good television product. Those who wrote about the Organization Man were members of the same generation, perhaps a voice of their own longing for more. I am nearly 58, a child of the 50’s and 60’s. The world looks very different to me now, as it looked to my father when he was in his late 80’s. Life is always ironic, I think.

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