You are the ushers, the pioneers of the new.
The electricity isn’t working in the cabin this morning. I check the fuse box down in the basement, but nothing’s blown, and so without a sure quick fix, I figure I can run in and out for coffee and not investigate further…now. I can see, if barely, and that’s how I like it. I got out here at first light, in that pause in the day that plays tricks on my eyes. Everything is held in that pause. It’s like the morning/the day are one, and they’re enveloped in fog, but it’s not fog. It’s just the in between of darkness and light, morning’s murkiness, as if it has the same problem I do when I first open my eyes, the need to rub the sleep out, adjust to being awake.
My daughter Mia is getting married on Friday. It’s funny the things you think about at such a time. One of them has been weather. I’ve been watching the weather more closely than usual because of the wedding. Each weekend this month I’ve been thinking about brides. Each weekend has started out poorly. Yesterday was no exception. A deluge. Beautiful and sunny for the brides by mid-afternoon, but I imagine them waking with alarm, and not being overly fond of the steamy effect left by the rain. My hair, without a clip, was a white woman’s Afro.
I’ve been watching the peonies too, as these are the flowers Mia has always dreamt of having at her wedding. I’ve been keeping my eye on the timing of peonies for years and knew they’d be peaking about now. The kind of summer we’ve had though, they bloomed early and what are left have been weather-beaten. My sister-in-law is going to the farmer’s market later in the week to see if she can find any—or another flower that can stand-in, if not.
We talked of the make-up of families the other day, particularly aunts and uncles. Henry will have a new uncle. Uncle Steve (or Stove as he’s nicknamed). We were remarking that there was no difference for us, as children, between the “blood” uncle or aunt or the “married into the family” uncle or aunt, and that it lasted…that indiscriminate love.
There’s been a lot of focus on the church service, and my favorite priest, now retired, will be doing the ceremony. I was an adult before I heard this definition of a sacrament: A sacrament is an outward manifestation of an inner reality. I thought that was about the coolest thing I ever heard.
There are probably more details involved in the reception, and I told Henry that sacraments are real causes for celebration and that the last really, really big party we had was for his first sacrament—his baptism.
What I remember most fondly about my preparations for that is ironing the tablecloth, and how it felt so ceremonial. I had an intricate tablecloth from Italy that I’d never used, and I got it out for his big day. There was something meditative about the ironing. It was quiet and reminded me of my youth when my mom had to iron all those uniform shirts for us Catholic school kids. There is a sound and a smell to ironing. I decided then, as I ironed, that the tablecloth was going to be the “Baptismal” tablecloth, and that was it. I’d bring it out for each future baptism, and that alone.
But alas, when Jack was baptized his mom had her own ideas and was giving the party at her own house. I’m sure she would have said okay if I’d asked her to use it, but it was clearly her time to begin her own traditions. Now is another one. For her and for me.
I’m actually writing about this so that I can scrap the other blog I wrote this morning on transitions. I’m trying to get out of talking about change so much, or at least talking about change without talking about any specific change, which is a little on the shoddy side for a writer. For God’s sake if you’re going to talk about something so much, you’ve got to give it some substance, some particulars, some character, some depth. You can’t just talk about change. So here’s a particular change: a wedding. It’s a family wedding. I’m gaining a son-in-law. Mia is gaining a whole new family. A new church. A new name.
But I think the deal with some changes is that they’re sacramental in a less formal way. You’re making a new “inner” reality a new “outer” reality, and it’s going on every day, almost moment by moment.
The biggest moments of my life, the biggest changes, have come more from what I think of as spiritual rather than religious. They’ve come from those moments when everything is suddenly different. None of those moments were about one specific thing but about each specific and every non-specific thing at once. Most of the time I haven’t known “how” things are different, only that they are. And “they” are only different because “I” am.
After I got married, I remember the big “reality check” on difference as coming the first time I had to list my “next of kin” and it was no longer my mom or dad but my husband. That felt really weird. You celebrate sacraments in part for the same reason you collect documents that testify to your changed status: you need witnesses to your changed state. You share about change, even amorphous change, to witness to it and sometimes to call others to it…as Jesus calls us all…to the new.
In a way, the change is simply . . . change. The change is . . . becoming new.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this is the call you have heard for as long as you can remember, the call you have heard as often as you have grown still and listened. It is the one beautiful note, the tolling of the bell of the Lord, your invitation to return home. This call has always sounded. It is not a death knell but a call to life. It is not of the past or the future but of the eternal now. It is within you as we speak, the tone and timbre of this dialogue.
It calls to you and asks you to invest your life with the very purpose you have always desired. You are not purposeless now. Your life is not meaningless. You are the ushers, the pioneers of the new. Your work, as will be often repeated, is to accept the new, and deny or refuse to accept the old. Only in this way will the new triumph over the old. D3:2-3