Wednesday, November 27, 2013

If that isn't mercy

Another ‘last day’ of another year, this time, a year that has no name. I mean, it’s not the Civil year that runs from January 1st to December 31st. It isn’t the Jewish or the Orthodox Christian year that begin with the autumn crescent or on September 1st either. Nor is it the Islamic year whose beginning and end migrate through the seasons of time on the heels of the moon. And it’s not the ‘natural’ year that runs between the vernal equinoxes. No, it’s an untitled year, an unnamed year, and today is its last day.

After today comes what used to be, in America, a day of complete and utter withdrawal from worldly pursuits. Without knowing what we were doing, we followed the advice repeated for centuries among ‘Christians of true worship’… ‘Lay aside all earthly cares, that we may receive the King of all.’ Well, we used to do something like that—‘lay aside all earthly cares’—and, if we left the house at all, it wasn’t to shopping or to work, but to travel to be with our families for the holiday.

And yes, this day—I’m now talking about ‘Thanksgiving Day’—was dedicated to being with our families and loved ones, and to feeling thankful, and to expressing that gratitude in many ways, even if we weren’t ‘religious.’ This being with our families and in a manner different from most other gatherings was really, though mystically, equivalent to ‘receiving the King of all.’ We don’t have to be theologians of a very high order to know when we are being welcomed and loved, or ‘in the presence of the King.’

Yes, we have arrived at last at the final day of—I just thought of its name—the normal year, that part of the three hundred sixty-five days when we do normal things and live normal lives. We go to work, to school, to the club, to church or synagogue, to the movies. We watch sports, sit coms, game shows and cartoons on TV. We eat normal foods, wear normal clothes, we normally keep regular hours and follow normal routines. All that is about to change for four blessèd weeks. Did I say ‘blessèd’? Well, we’ll see.

Starting day after tomorrow, after ‘Turkey Day,’ we enter a mercantile tunnel to Christmas. In many places this starts the evening before, unintentionally in sync with the holy and divine scriptures (which almost no one reads) wherein is written ‘and there was evening, and there was morning, one day.’ That day is called ‘Black Friday’ because many merchants whose ledgers have stayed in the red most of the year will see black at last, a profit or at least a break even. What incredible faith! or good credit.

The next thirty days are a time all of its own, as a different set of priorities takes over our lives. For a nation that usually hates tradition—except that of making money—there is a remarkable, though temporary, indulgence in it. For the world the time about to be entered partakes of kairós,’ the eternal and acceptable, in contrast to chronological, time. It is signaled by an almost universal dispensation of ‘cháris,’ grace, that is, divine, free love. Even without knowing the Giver, we still receive the Gift.

If that isn’t mercy, I don’t know what is.

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