15 January 2009

Death

Sue and I went up, as planned, to visit David and Jodi Van Boxel this last week-end. We had a lovely time. We visited friends - I mean, friends in addition to Dave and Jodi and their younger children - whom we had not seen in quite some time. We went up on Thursday the 8th, came back home on Monday the 12th - and now Susan is in Australia, visiting (mainly) Helen in Newcastle - with a couple of nights at Johnny's in Sydney

I tended to get up a bit earlier than Sue and wandered about a bit, in prayer (sometimes :-)) and meditation.

One morning - might have been Friday - I was struck with how necessarily difficult life is.

Not life, even, really - just living.

I live in a house, with electric lights and appliances, plumbing, hot and cold water. If I wished - and could afford it - I could have the temperature controlled as well. I go to work in a motor vehicle.

Staying at David and Jodi's was just that little bit closer to uncontrolled nature to make me think. He has spent quite some time - more than two years, I think - building a new house for his family. They live in an old one that is not in good condition. Sue and I slept in this new house both last year and this.

This year it has some electricity. It still has not got plumbing - we need to go to the older house for that.

My comfort requires an elaborate exertion of effort to maintain it. The older house David is living in shows that none of this complex artificial environment takes care of itself. It must be maintained.

Whilst we were there, David got ill - not terribly serious, a 24-hour stomach bug of some sort that he thinks he picked up from one of his children. Nothing could be done about this, of course, except for him to wait until it had passed.

A couple of years ago Sue, after having had bouts of strange illness (that I never contracted) for years, was finally diagnosed with Coeliac disease. This means that she is unable to eat foods containing gluten.

A lot of foods contain gluten. All direct wheat, barley, and rye is out, of course, together with un-obvious things - beer, made from malted barley; many vinegars, made the same way; many ice creams ('thickeners' made from wheat) - and Holy Communion from the Host. Susan can receive Our Lord in the Cup, if it is not the one into which the priest has dropped a particle of the Host. Although the Host is now the Body and Blood of Christ, its 'accidental' properties - including its chemical properties - remain those of wheat bread.

Any of you can add to this list of Things Not The Way They Should Be. These is the 'thorns' and 'thistles' of Genesis 3. We live in a dying world.

This is the meaning of the Old Covenant laws regarding uncleanness. Until the Incarnation, the world was infected by death. The Law taught God's people this - and taught them that they themselves needed cleansing. A woman was unclean after childbirth - because she had just given birth to a dead thing. Touching a corpse rendered you unclean. The world was not as it should be.

Our Lord has changed all that. By uniting Himself with our flesh - with the world as it was - He, instead of becoming Himself unclean, rendered the creation clean again. By shedding His Blood on the Cross He made it possible for us to be cleansed from the deepest form of uncleanness: our sins.

He did all that ... and yet ... Susan is still coeliac; David became ill; if I do not constantly work at it, entropy will slowly cause my house to dissolve back into the elements from which it came; and I myself will one day die the death of all men.

It will not always be so.

Seeing that things were not as God intended gave me hope. It is indeed hope that causes us to look to what is not yet - but will be. It is hope that enables us to build for the future, knowing that even though these things that we build will not themselves last, yet the building itself is producing something that will last. It is producing those habits of the soul that we call 'virtues.'

And those are the things that will last. When we do the work in front of us with love, with care for those who will benefit from it, with love for God Who assigned it to us - then we are slowly reversing the entropy which devours our physical being at present. We are bringing order out of the chaos that resulted from the Fall. We are building up that which was torn down.

And one day all will be made new. The desert will bring forth the rose. The leaves of the trees that drink from the river flowing from the Temple of His Side will be the medicine to restore health to this sick world. And the fruit of those trees will be the fruit of the Tree of Life.

2 comments:

Triple J said...

You can tell when my father is on holiday. LOL!!! Very enjoyable reading. :)

John from Canada said...

Indeed, there is a profound sense in almost every human being that death, though seemingly ubiquitous, is profoundly wrong. I believe the reason for this is that human beings are made to love, and death and love seem fundamentally opposed. Love is not supposed to come to an end. But it seemingly does -- everyone we love, and even ourselves who love, all come to an end. Of all religions, Christianity seems to me to have the only adequate answer to this: love, in the Cross and Resurrection, has triumphed over death. Despite what it seems, love does not truly come to an end; death is only temporary. Indeed, death's temporary victories are still painful, and the end of death and final victory of love, though longingly expected, is not yet seen. But as Christians, we believe this price, the price of loving in a world of limitations and death, is finite, and in loving, we have the hope of infinite gain.