According to Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, OMI (Give Us This Day, May 31, 2020), Pentecost is part of a cycle of life that has five moments: Good Friday, when life is lost; Easter, when new life is received; Forty Days, when the disciples adjusted to a new presence of Jesus; Ascension, when the disciples let go of the Jesus they once had; and, finally, Pentecost, when the disciples received a new spirit for the life they were about to live. And, Rolheiser says, that’s the cycle within our own lives:
We need, constantly to accept our deaths, receive the new life that’s then given us, grieve our losses, let go of the old, and then receive the spirit for the actual life we’re living.
I don’t think that Ronald Rolheiser anticipated our current global situation when he wrote this reflection. I’m sure publication dates preceded the outbreak of the pandemic. Yet, how appropriate for the life cycle that many of us are experiencing now.
We are suffering many losses:
- Loss of loved ones. Two friends died this month, not from COVID-19, but the isolation makes it more challenging to find ways to express sympathy to grieving families.
- Loss of family. I have been unable to travel to family to be with them. On a purely selfish level, I will have no photographs of my grands for this whole time in their growing lives.
- Loss of youth. I know that I would have grown older anyway, but watching my hair grow greyer and out of control puts a whole different look on my life, literally and figuratively.
- Loss of health. Thankfully, I am not experiencing this loss right now, but I know that many of you are.
- Loss of employment. Although my furlough, and now retirement, from my job at church were voluntarily, I am still grieving the loss of close, daily and weekly encounters with staff and parishioners.
- Loss of joy. In this isolation, I am at peace and content, but is that really joy?
Yet, Rolheiser reminds us, we are always given new life. If we are trying to live that new life with our former spirit, we will find ourselves deeply out of sorts. We need daily Pentecost to get our lives back in sync with the Spirit who dwells within us.
Like you, I have been grieving our losses, even when I don’t always recognize my out-of-sort times as grief. I have not completely let go of the past, but I am trying to live life with a new spirit. I took the first step yesterday with a walk through one of my favorite gardens. Historic Spanish Point is more of a preserve of trees and flowers native to Florida than a cultured garden.
Was I fearful of venturing away from home? Yes. Thankfully, there were not many people at the garden yesterday. I discovered that people kept their distance, even when some were not wearing masks. I wore mine whenever I saw someone approaching. I also discovered that I could say hello through my mask, and not be so wary of strangers. It was the first time I could saunter with my camera, enjoying every minute of being outdoors.
I wouldn’t ordinarily walk through gardens at this time of year, particularly at midday. But I decided, this is Florida. It’s hot. Get used to it! There was a food truck and picnic area at the garden, which were not there before the lockdown. So, for the first time since March, I enjoyed eating away from home. There was only one other woman who sat at a table some distance away.
It feels strange describing such ordinary events in great detail. I feel as though I am learning how to go places and do things as though for the first time. Going out takes more thought and preparation, but this first adventure in my new life brought a joy that has been missing for a while.