For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.”
- Mark 1:37, 38
My Aunt Maude could always make me feel better, by just a word, a look, a hug. She was there for me when I had my tonsillectomy and when my grandfather died. She couldn’t undo painful things. But she always made me feel loved and safe.
I’d sure like to have Aunt Maude around now. She gave me many wonderful things that still sustain me: the memory of her perfume, the touch of her arms around me, a few books and tea cups, and the deep down confidence that her love continues even though it’s been some 52 years since she’s been on this earth.
Recently my thoughts turn to Aunt Maude as I search for a quiet, God-place in my heart these days. I think of her as I pray “Be still my soul.”
And I often find myself thinking about Mother Mary. It must have been exciting for her to be asked to be the mother of God’s baby. But it also put her into a whole new world. She was a pregnant unwed young woman. I love the way Gabriel sent her to her cousin Elizabeth who “. . . in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” (St Mark 1:37). When the world is turned upside down we need people who can remind us that . . .with God nothing is impossible. I can imagine Mary and Elizabeth - separated by age but united in miraculous pregnancies - talking and probably laughing about the wonders of their conditions. Perhaps, Cousin Elizabeth was Mother Mary’s Aunt Maude.
With social isolation, the externals of my life have slowed to nearly a crawl. I can’t be physically present with Aunt Maude or the others of my life who are calmly reassuring just by their presence. I can’t gather with others like we used to for play, pray, work, or study. But I do a lot of phone calls (you can even pray over the phone!); I can pray and worship with my Trinity family using the internet resources such as Sunday sermons and virtual compline. I have a friend who is even participating in virtual AA meetings.
One thing that does help me is to think of time in a different way. When we do Kairos retreats in prison we talk about two kinds of time: chronos time and kairos time. Chronos time is measured by the clock, by coronavirus crises, by right here-and-now demands, by the number of days left in prison or days required to remain in quarantine.
On the other hand, kairos time is “God’s time” - the bigger picture, the God - reality and sustenance of our life. Mary’s pregnancy – any pregnancy- is a kairos event because that baby doesn’t follow a calendar or respond to the necessities of life. That baby is on a different schedule; it’s on God’s time. The baby and mom have one foot in this world but also another foot in the eternity and the eternal reality that the baby is coming from.
When I ask God to keep me on his kairos time my soul does become more still; I am more calm. I may even find a hint of Aunt Maude’s perfume. Yes, I remain in the world and reality of chronos and coronavirus. But there is more: endlessly, eternally more.
This coronavirus challenge is taking place during Lent – a time for us to reflect on the limitations, the vulnerabilities and mortality of our lives. We remember that God made us from dust and that we’ll return to dust.
But Lent is climaxed by Easter! We insistently proclaim new life here and now as well as after we return to dust!
God’s kairos time of new life is ours now! God continues to be with us, love and sustain us in ways beyond our imagination!
Be still my soul! The Lord is on thy side: Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain: Leave to thy God to order and provide; In every change He faithful will remain. Be still my Soul! Thy best they heav’n-ly friend, Thro’ thorny ways leads to a joyful end. Amen.