Friday, September 22, 2006

Rosh Hashanah, or Burying the Old and Starting Anew

This evening starts the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year. The traditional greeting (transliterated into English) is: "L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem." This means something like, "may you be inscribed and sealed for a new year." Much of the focus is on putting behind us the old and starting afresh--thus the picture from yesterday's funeral of Fr. Bartholomew.

What if we were to choose to "bury" (St. Paul calls it "put to death") our old selves and start afresh?The rain this September has brought to mind just how much September has marked both beginnings and endings for me these days. Of course, as an academic, it marks the beginning of a new school year. It is wonderful to be able to "start over" every year, putting behind you the mistakes the last time you taught a class. New faces mean new possibilities. But it has also become, for me, a time to remember "endings." Not only do the temperatures start to drop and the leaves to turn colors and fall, but I remember my grandparents--three of whom died during this month (my paternal grandfather in 1951, maternal grandfather in 2004, and my maternal grandmother in 2005). Visiting the monastic cemetery yesterday reminded me of similar visits to Phelps, Missouri, and Siloam Springs, Arkansas, to remember those who have helped frame my past.

In Morning Prayer today, we began with that wonderful prayer of confession in Psalm 51: "Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness . . ." and then heard later from the apostle Paul that challenging ethical admonition: "Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God." These texts speak of recognizing the error of our ways, confessing them, and then setting before us the goal of moving on and allowing God to claim us wholly. Paul goes on in that 12th chapter of Romans to say, "Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering."

So, as the rain continues to fall and we move forward into this weekend when our Jewish friends choose to start over again, I join with them in choosing to remember and give thanks for the goodly heritage of the past, repent wholeheartedly today for the present, and lay hold of the hope of the future found only in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. May you be written upon and sealed by God God's self for a new year--a new beginning.