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Measuring My Days

April 2009
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“This is our Gospel.  For this is what Christianity essentially is – a religion of Resurrection.  This is what every worshipping congregation is intended in the purpose of God to be – a community of the Resurrection.  This is the basic character of every act of public worship – a proclamation of the Resurrection.  And this is what the Gospel offers to our dark and ruined chaos of a world, where men peering into the future are daunted by the well-nigh impossible task of creating order out of confusion and life out of death:  the power of the Resurrection.  O rejoice that the Lord is arisen!”      

                                        James Stewart, A Faith toProclaim

            The other day I went excavating through my archives in search of a column by James J. Kilpatrick, long a mentor whose writings in the Washington Post  I yearned to emulate. With great joy, I had saved it!  Now yellowed with age but still readable, the piece was entitled Spring, The Resurrection Time.

            “Springs are not always the same”, he wrote.   “In some years, April bursts upon our Virginia hills in one prodigious leap – and all the state is filled at once, whole choruses of tulips, arabesques of forsythia, cadenzas of flowering plum…In other years, spring tiptoes in…

The dogwood bud, pale green, is inlaid with russet markings.  Within the perfect cup a score of clustered seeds are nestled.  One examines the bud with awe:   Where were those seeds a month ago?  The apples display their milliner’s scraps of ivory silk, rose-tinged.  All the sleeping things wake up – primrose, baby iris, blue phlox.  The earth warms – you can smell it, feel it, crumble April in your hands.

One afternoon I was walking across the yard and stopped to pick up an acorn…nut brown, glossy, cool to the touch; the crested top was milled and knurled like the knob on a safe.  There was nothing unique about it.  Thousands littered the grass. I could not tell you what Saul of Tarsus encountered on that famous road to Damascus when the light shone suddenly around him, but I  know what he felt.  He was trembling, and filled with astonishment, and so was I that afternoon.  The great chestnut oak that towered above me had sprung from such an insignificant thing as this; and the oak contained within itself the generating power to seed whole forests.  All was locked in this tiny, ingenious safe – the mystery, the glory, the grand design.

            All this reminds me of a theme that runs through my head like a line of music.  Its message is profoundly simple, and profoundly mysterious also:  Life goes on.  That is all there is to it.  Everything that is, was; and everything that is, will be.  Everywhere, spring brings the blessed assurance that life goes on, that death is no more than a passing season. This is the Resurrection time.  That which was dead, or so it seemed, has come to life again… This is the miracle: There is no death; there is in truth eternal life.

            Look to the rue anemone, if you will, or to the pea patch, or to the stubborn weed that thrusts its shoulders through a city street.  This is how it was, is now, and ever shall be, the world without end.  In the serene certainty of spring recurring, who can fear the distant fall?”

                       

“If a writer is so cautious that he never writes anything that cannot be criticized, he will never write anything that can be read.  If you want to help other people you have got to make up your mind to write things that some men will condemn…Do not be one of those who, rather than risk failure, never attempts anything.” Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation