Autumn faith marked by patience, paradoxes

| Deacon Mickey Friesen | November 6, 2012 | 0 Comments

Minnesotans love to talk about the weather. Maybe this is because it changes so often. We are blessed to experience four full seasons, each with its own unique beauty and challenge. I have come to see how these cycles of nature mirror the rhythms of our life and reflect the seasons of our faith as we grow in Christ.

We are living through the autumn season — the annual rite of passage from summer abundance to winter rigor mortis. It is a season of change and transition.

Season of paradox

The beauty of autumn is revealed in nature’s decline as the days grow shorter, the plants wither and the remaining fruit decays. And, yet, faced with the inevitability of winter’s freeze, what does nature do? She scatters seeds that will bring new life in a future spring that is yet unseen.

Autumn is a season of paradox when dying and seeding go together. It’s easier to see the decay of autumn than to see the seeding of new opportunities that are being planted.

Our lives also make this autumn rite of passage. We pass through seasons of letting go and loss. We face the loss of a dream, the decline of health, the decay of relationships, the end of work or the death of a loved one. We can struggle to find meaning as the pain of loss consumes our attention. Yet, when we are able to look deeper, we may see the flicker of something new — the seed of an unknown possibility.

It is during these times of transition that faith becomes more about holding life rather than trying to fix it or deny it. We hold the mystery of dying and seeding until something new is revealed. I think this is what it means to be “patient.”

In her book, “Grow Deep, Not Just Tall,” Karen Kaiser Clarke says, “Patience is not passive . . . it’s the rawest form of courage. . . . The seeds of new beginnings are hidden everywhere. . . . Growth takes time and patience to nurture into fullness.”

In another place, she says, “Life is change; growth is optional.”

Autumn faith is a patient faith. It is the kind of faith that Jesus’ teaches about in the journey of a grain of wheat. “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit” (John 12:24).

The abundant life that Jesus offers is rooted in an autumn faith — a faith in the dying/seeding process, the holding of paradoxes and bearing patiently the mystery of life in faith.

As I write this reflection, people on the East Coast are waking up to the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. It was a rare autumn storm that brought together divergent systems. Today is a day to wait, take stock and be patient with organizing recovery efforts. As with other natural disasters, much is lost and life will change.

Yet, faith allows one to consider what seeds are being planted. What meaning and new life is being nurtured? What gifts are being called forth in response to those in great need? How can we hold this in prayer?

Seeds of the Church

As followers of Christ we are invited at each Eucharist to proclaim the mystery of faith — the mystery of dying that destroys death and rising that restores life. We are marked with this mystery in baptism, receive it in every Communion and sent forth in mission to live it.

During this month that we remember all the saints and loved ones who have gone before us, I’m especially reminded of the martyrs — those who most closely followed the way of Jesus by losing their life and finding their salvation. The early Church father, Tertullian, said of the martyrs, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” We are the fruit of that seed.

“God has made everything appropriate to its time and season, and has put the timeless into their hearts. . . . God restores what would otherwise be displaced” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, 15).

Deacon Mickey Friesen is director of the archdiocesan Center for Mission.

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Category: Sharing Faith