I went for an afternoon walk despite the faint mist of a November rainfall, and as is my custom, I made sure to keep an eye on the sidewalk, careful not to trip up on any uneven spots. On that day the sidewalk was filling up with slowly falling leaves–some already withered and dry, others fresh and still brilliantly colored.. And once again I was made keenly aware of the rhythm of the seasons. On that afternoon I was witnessing the end of yet another cycle of springtime rebirth, summer flowering, autumn shedding in preparation for the season of cold and quiet.
As the season of advent approaches I begin to turn my thoughts to our tradition of reflecting on the three “comings” or advents of God: in the birth of Jesus, in our own lives as we face each day, and at the “end-time.” Those falling and fallen leaves have led me to reflect in a new way on the cycle of life in the universe, in our world. We know there is a season to be born, a season to grow and a season to die. But seeing those leaves on a misty afternoon moved me to dwell on the reality of “the circle of life” in a new and deeper way. I do not think I am unusual in not wanting to dwell too much on the reality of our life which will not go on forever, as we know it now. This advent I am moved to face my mortality as the human reality it is. In observing the randomness of those falling leaves, I saw as well the countless numbers of falling and fallen people in our world who end the cycle of their earthly lives: those shaken early from the tree of life by wars and other forms of violence, by poverty, by sickness and neglect and those tired leaves still clinging to the branches, eager to fall, to complete the circle of their dance in time.
Perhaps because I am an elder in this world, at the thought of death, it may be easier for me to see the cycles of nature and of human life as connected in a rhythm that is as normal as music. That I love life and cling to the tree of life is a blessing for which I can only give thanks. But this Advent, I am moved to focus – not on the coming of Jesus many years ago, nor even on the coming of the Lord in every day of my life, but on that unknown day when the fragile leaf of my life will slip from its mooring on the tree of this season and fall to the ground where my ancestors lie buried, in hope of the Great Day of the coming of the Lord of life.
I can honestly say this is not my favorite thought to dwell upon, so this Advent I hope to live with deeper gratitude for the chance to once again experience the cycle of falling leaves and barren trees, in hope of once again awaiting the gift of another season of life here on earth. Above all, this year, “in spirit I go round the world” (Blessed Marie of the Incarnation) to be with my sisters and brothers who on this day, on the morrow, on every day of this season of expectation will close the circle of their lives on earth.
May they rise in joy at the Coming of the Lord. Amen
Marian Bohen, O.S.U.
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