By Derick Cranston
Earth’s last gasp of life explodes in a cacophony of autumn color as she sings her death song. It is the last aria of Mother Nature before she begins her winter slumber.
We are entering the season of death and darkness, a journey into an arid desert wasteland. It is not the time to lose hope though, for it is in the desert that life is sanctified and made whole. St. Anthony and the Desert Fathers found enlightenment in the desert; the early Israelites wandered through the desert for 40 years to reach the Promised Land, and Jesus fasted in the desert before he traveled the road to Calvary and the glory of the Resurrection.
Before there is life there is death. What is a seed, but the remnants of a plant that has died? If we look closely enough at nature, we find that all of life is a journey towards transcendence. We are called to life, but first must plunge into the darkness of the abyss. It is the story of Creation which continues to unfold throughout history and time. In the beginning, there was darkness and chaos. Then there was light, and the breath of God penetrated matter and produced life. Life pours out ceaselessly and will not stop.
We see this same pattern in the Incarnation. Before Christ could ascend, he had to descend. St. Paul tells us that “… though he was in the form of God, he did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather he emptied himself taking the form of a slave, coming into human likeness. He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed upon him the name that is above every name.” All of life is being led on the same journey as Christ. Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father and is taking us with him.
God is love, and love desires to be in communion with its beloved. We are drawn into a great river of cosmic “becoming” and swept out into an ocean of the ultimate reality which is God. It is a perilous journey we make with hope and faith in the future. There will be moments of toil and struggle, doubt and pain, and sometimes we will get lost on the way. At times, we will even feel like we are drowning in a sea of hopelessness. But just when we feel like we cannot go on any more, we find that the flower pushes up through the crack in the sidewalk, the embryo grows in the womb, and love’s desire propels life forward.
(Derick Cranston is youth minister for St. Mary Parish in Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph Parish in Wellman. He is going through diaconate formation and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)