Old Men and a Young God

Along the way, as we grow up, we learn some sayings that just seem to stick with us.

I remember one saying from a venerable teacher in my seminary days:

“My age is the right age, and it increases annually.”

My age is the right age, and it increases annually.

One of our Parish Ministry Teams at St George, Houston, consists of a group of ladies (occasionally a gentleman) who, along with a priest, go together to call on the sick and shut-ins.

A couple years back, on one of the Visitation Team’s outings, we were accompanied by a little girl. My wife had a doctor’s appointment which, probably due to my age, I’d forgotten when scheduling the Visitation Day and, thus, my youngest got to ride around with the Team.

I’m usually the youngest in the car; at the time I was 45 – a stage in life when one can join in the conversations about physical ailments, skin blotches, surgeries, creams, vitamins, aches, pains, and the like.

In fact, on that day, I mentioned something I’d recently noticed about myself and one of the ladies said, “Father, it’s just Ay Gee Eee.” It took me a sec — A.G.E. — we laughed. This started the swap-a-woe dialogue where we all lamented our various ailments. After a while a four year old voice piped up from the back seat: “I had an ear infection one time!”

Even at an early age, we try to fit in, to make sense of it all, to find our place.

My age is the right age, and it increases annually.

My oldest, back when she was two or three, was sitting at breakfast one morning and happily said: “Dad, do your ears hurt like mine do?” Hmmm. An hour or so later, the doctor said something like: “Double ear infection.”

Kids. Age. And to think: they’re always wanting to get older!

While I’m on the parenting part here, let me just mention that parents grow up, too.

When we had our first child a friend of mine got a good laugh when he observed me thoroughly washing off the pacifier that had fallen from my daughter’s mouth. He, a father of four, said: “You know, when you have your first child, they drop their pacifier and you boil it before giving it back to them. The second child … you just rinse it off. The third child drops the pacifier on the floor and you stick it in your own mouth to clean it before giving it back to them!

Heh!

My age is the right age, and it increases annually.

Then there’s the so-called Spirit of the Age.

If you’re like me, you’re often tempted to wish you’d been born in another age — one with a little less of this, a bit more of that — leaning toward Virtue, goodness, Andy & Barney; fleeing today’s fickle, flash, flesh and flunkies.

But, really: Age plays tricks on you.

Take, for instance, picture-taking. I’ve been known to see the most recent picture of myself and think, even say: “Gosh! That doesn’t even look like me!” – or – “I don’t look like that at all!”

Someone, usually a family member will say: “Yes you do!”

I’ll study the picture and think to myself, “Boy, I’m old … fat … ugly” … something; something bad. Years later I might happen upon the same picture and think: “Wow! Look how good I used to look!” Or, I think to myself, “Hmm … I was skinny, young … handsome” … or some such nonsense.

Maybe it’s just me, but you really can’t judge by age. I wouldn’t trust pictures either. Watch the national news: “There’s bad news tonight … the country is bad … the president is bad … global warming is bad … everything is bad (now a word from our sponsor).”

Turn on the local news: “A murder today … a kidnapping also … a gun at school … auto accident … poverty … (now this).” The Internet is certainly no better.

“My age is the right age … and it increases annually.”

This is true, not only for our individual ages, but the age in which we live. God knows what He’s about — which means we are placed right where we’re supposed to be. The earth continues to circle a star; that age increases annually.

Ages ago, St Paul wrote:

When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry (Col.3:4-5).

Mind you, he’s talking to Christians here!

On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you once walked, when you lived in them. But now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth (Col.3:6-8).

Sound familiar?

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all (Col.3:9-11).

Now, friends, I confess, it is true: We are, no doubt, living in the latter days. I mean, certainly we’re one day closer to the Last Day than yesterday. But when it comes to sin, transgressing the law, prejudices, falling short, and really making a mess of things — there is nothing new under the sun. It has been so in every age. And, undoubtedly, this side of Paradise, the same shall occur till the end of the age.

In the meantime, this is our time. This time, ever fleeting and often disappointing, is the time that God has given us. It may look better in the rear view mirror or in the crystal ball, yet both are an illusion. The time that we have is now. We, by God’s grace, are the light of the world — in our age, for this age — because we have entered into that Life which is the Light, none other than the God-Man, Christ the Lord.

Let us not be conformed to this age. Rather, whatever our individual age, this is our time — our age — to bear witness to the Light Who has promised to be with us always … even until the close of the age.

But, O, to be young again …

We were on the way home one day and I was singing songs from the Divine Liturgy. My youngest, who – at the time – was a two year old, said, “Do it again, Dad!” I remembered this, especially from my oldest daughter, particularly the Trisagion hymn: “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us!” So, between the grocery store and the house, I must have sung the Trisagion about twenty times.

Anyway … we got home, I laid my daughter down for her nap and she said, sing Holy God! So I did. Then she said: “Sing Twinkle, Twinkle.” So, tearing up and appreciating the moment, I sang “Twinkle, twinkle, little star …” When it was ended she demanded: “Now sing your ABC’s!” That’s when I told her it was nap time, time to go to sleep.

Hmmph. Children. They form us … and vice versa.

A few years ago, as Vacation Bible School was ending, a young girl (about 10 or 11 years old) came up to me and said, “Fr Joseph, that talk you gave the other day on Confession? I just wanted to thank you. Something you said made me go to my father and confess … and now I feel like the Lord is with me and has filled me up, and I am changed. Anyway, I just wanted to thank you.”

Later, not knowing the young girl, I asked one of the leaders if she was a member of my church or one of the other Orthodox churches.

I found out: Neither. She lived in the area and wanted to come to our Vacation Bible School.

Children. God bless ‘em! Children love to sing, love to dance, love to experience the joy in life. Children love to love and to be loved. God and children must be a lot alike. And to think, to get into the party – the Big Party – we’ve got to become just like them.

In his book Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton wrote:

A child kicks its legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough… It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again,” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again,” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike: it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

As I said in the beginning, along the way, as we grow up, we learn some sayings that just seem to stick with us.

My age is the right age, and it increases annually.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

And that, brothers and sisters – the very Gospel repeated at every baptism is Good News. No matter our age – God is with us; no matter our circumstances – God is with us; no matter that it may seem things are falling apart around us – Our Lord, who has all authority in heaven and on earth … is with us!

But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God.

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Sure … “My age is the right age, and it increases annually …

But, God is with us and God is …

young.

For our sake –

for goodness sake!

Let’s become like Him.

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