It has been a season of passages for my ever-widening circle of friends, and since we love one another, I have walked alongside them, mourning and celebrating with them.
The deaths – those passages from this world to the next – mark time and remind us of time. We don’t have steeple bells in our neighborhoods anymore, but the tolling is heard just the same. And in the Church, these passages are not just mourned, but are framed by births, Baptisms, Confirmations, and weddings. The dry grass of our elders is replaced by new growth, greening the soil of our parish. New life replaces the old; bells ring for the new just as they toll for the old.
As Christians, we believe that death is a temporary parting. Something greater awaits us, something glorious, and one day we shall see those we love and who love us. Yet we remain here, rooted in time and earth, housed in flesh not yet transformed to glory.
In this time we have been given, we have one another to cherish, and as I gazed upon the newlyweds in our church undercroft this morning, I shared in their joy. Their eyes were full of one another, as though each had sunk into the other’s heart and desired nothing more. Earlier we had worshiped together as a family. We had sung together, prayed together, and with one voice boldly proclaimed our beliefs together. We had taken part in the Eucharistic supper of the Lamb.
Baptism, our preacher explained, was our invitation to this holy supper, this wedding feast of the Christ and his bride, the Church. We are baptized near the entrance, for this is the beginning of our path. We enter the Church through Baptism and are invited to journey in time to the altar table. We reply to this invitation in Holy Confirmation. We say yes, and now we don our wedding garment – our spirit of penitence and worship – to take a seat at the festival table, to take part in the great celebration, the Eucharistic feast.
So the Bride of Christ becomes the Family of God, as God enters each of us, and we are linked with one another in a deeply satisfying and sacramental way. We cherish one another and we partake, take part, in one another’s joys and sorrows. The newlyweds I congratulated this morning hopefully will be blessed with children, the incarnation of their love. So too, our Family of God shall share this blessing with them; we shall welcome each child through the open doors of our parish church. We shall baptize them and through water and spirit shall invite them on the journey to the altar, to their Confirmation, to their taking part in the wedding feast of the Lamb at the Eucharistic table.
We live in a dark and nihilistic age. And so, it seems to me, that the light within the Church shines even brighter, in contrast. But each of us must accept the invitation to enter the light, so that we may truly love one another, so that we may fully see the path ahead, the choices we will need to make along the way. We must don the wedding garments of Baptism and Confirmation. We must wear the robe of penitence and sing the songs of praise, as we mourn and we celebrate our sisters and our brothers.
We have been invited to love, to share incarnation on earth, to journey with one another, to ring the chimes and toll the bells as we pass through these remarkable and holy passages of life.