In the past four days, I have attended two funerals, one of which was for a woman who was only thirty-nine years old. Yesterday, was another funeral and today marks the twenty-sixth anniversary of my mother’s death. I took a walk outside to ponder these three events happening so closely together because it seemed to me that God was trying to speak to me in some way about the meaning of death. I know that with the novices and those in Formation, I often speak with them about the kenotic self-emptying and self-death that we must all experience in our journey to live religious life in a community setting. But was there more in the message?
As I walked outside along the roads and trails on the Abbey grounds, thinking about my recent encounters with death and my mother’s anniversary, I was struck by the light of the sun reflecting on the dying leaves of autumn as the chilly wind brought them to the ground. I was struck by the beautiful colors that surrounded me in all the foliage. The leaves and bushes were ablaze with bright colors of orange, brown, yellow and red….certainly not the colors of death but of glorious life. The message came to me about the seed having to die in the ground in order to bring forth life and I was enveloped in a deep sense of calm and heart peace. Autumn, usually associated with the “dying” of things, really is ablaze with life. No one, to me it seemed, could walk these trails and roads and not feel the vibrancy that God was painting on the leaves…..death has no victory for believers and autumn’s colors are only one way that Creation gives us this message. Though the wind be chilly and the leaves be falling, the brightness of the sun on the beautiful colors surrounding me made me think only of life, even the life that comes from one’s death to self. Most assuredly for me, this walk in the woods was God’s prompting me to see the message in the medium. The bright colors, though the product of a darkening day and chilly wind, are really reminders of the life to come….it was all making sense to me especially when I came to the tall wooden cross on the hill by the roadside, framed in a beautiful blue sky!
I walked and sat and mindfully became present to the beauty around me. In doing so, I opened myself to the dying colors of autumn that bring life….God’s beauty revealing his everlasting love. I would like to invite you to come walk our Abbey grounds if possible and see the life-giving colors of the Spirit that cover our property. If you can’t I strongly encourage you to take a walk in the woods somewhere near your home and experience the glorious colors of a dying season radiating the warmth of God’s love. To quote the hymn of St. Francis, “it is in dying that we’re born to eternal life”!