Today is a day when more people than usual pay attention to the earth’s position vis-a-vis the sun. Twice a year there are moments when the sun is exactly above the equator, signaling “equal night” (equinox) everywhere on earth. For us in the Northern Hemisphere it means movement into spring (vernal equinox), more light and warmer temperatures. For the Southern Hemisphere, it is just the opposite (autumnal equinox). Most people in my corner of the world are quite happy and expectant and/or relieved that we have come to this day. We should soon see early flowers peeking out of the earth; actually some tiny sprigs of green closely protected by buildings are already visible to the trained eye.
As I look back on yesterday, I feel as if my emotions experienced an equinox of sorts: equal parts of joy and sorrow coming together. Like the spring equinox, however, the day left a deeper knowing of the lasting effect of the two becoming one.
Yesterday morning we joined hundreds of mourners at a heartfelt funeral service for a wonderful man and good, humble priest, Father Alfred Bebel. Al had been our landlord and pastor at St. Ann’s Church years ago and through the years had often come to spend time with God in retreat at the Spiritual Center in Windsor where we live. Al loved his Polish heritage, his country upbringing, his congregants and the patients he served over many years as a hospital chaplain. There was not a dry eye or an empty seat in the very large church as we sadly said goodbye to him yesterday.
Last evening I participated in another ritual, this one a celebration of St. Joseph’s Day (see yesterday’s blog post). Similarly beautiful with heartfelt music and preaching, the eucharistic liturgy included renewal of commitment by sisters and lay associates. Deep joy was shared by all at the ceremony and the reception that followed.
As I reflected later on the day with its tears of joy and of sorrow, I was reminded of John Denver’s song that the music group sang before the evening celebration. All this joy, all this sorrow, all this promise, all this pain. Such is life, such is being, such is spirit, such is love. Somehow, all was folded into one in the emotions of the day. We are confident that Al Bebel is now in the bliss of eternity and we could not wish him back with us. We still struggle sometimes to fulfill the commitments we have made to God and to life but are confident that God loves us unconditionally and that we are greatly blessed. Gratitude for our life blends with our yearning and joy is the result.
Today is an ordinary day and yet I know that the sun and the earth are tilting just a bit to bring us a welcome change.