O supreme and unapproachable light! O whole and blessed truth, how far art thou from me, who am so near to thee! How far removed art thou from my vision, though I am so near to thine! Everywhere thou art wholly present, and I see thee not. In thee I move, and in thee I have my being; and I cannot come to thee. Thou art within me, and about me, and I feel thee not.
~ Saint Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury (1033-1109)
Saint Anselm (from anselm.edu)
This is Reformation Day, 498 years later. Luther is reputed to have said (probably inaccurately): “Here I stand, I can do no other.”
This is Halloween, and though I didn’t have an opportunity to provide treats to a group of trick-or-treaters, I have seen some smile-producing photos of friends’ little ones costumed-up for the occasion.
This is the eve of the Octave of Prayer leading up to the national election day, which our Bishop has asked us to keep in all the parishes of the Diocese of Long Island.
And these are the last hours before I officially let go of the responsibility as Dean of Mercer School of Theology, and take up the ministry of parish priest for the Church of Saint Anselm on Long Island. I spent today in my office at Mercer, packing more stuff than my little auto could carry this evening. Before those efforts it was fun to cook breakfast for any members of the diocesan stuff who wanted to stop in to the Saint Drogo Refectory at Mercer. ‘Egg Bake’ and ‘French toast casserole,’ complemented by plenty of bacon, seemed to satisfy the group. It was fun.
Tonight I am both weary and full of anticipation. I feel something in common this evening with the ancient Roman god, Janus: “In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus (/ˈdʒeɪnəs/; Latin: Ianus,pronounced [ˈjaː.nus]) is the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, doorways,passages, and endings” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janus]. He was depicted as having two faces, one set toward the past and the other toward the future. That visual expresses pretty accurately what transition feels like in my life tonight. Looking both ways it is hard to see clearly, but it is also natural to feel both gratitude for what has been and anticipation for what will be.
A sculpture of the Roman god, Janus, found in the Vatican Museum [wikipedia].
There is another reason why I might feel a camaraderie this night with this ancient heady Roman. For five years of my life I lived in Rome on the hill named after him, the Gianicolo.
Where do I face now? This, I think, is the night for letting go, or at least beginning to do so. Tomorrow will be the day for beginning to get my head and arms and heart around a new place, new community, same Gospel, same priesthood, same faith, a different part of the same mission. There is time, and indeed need, for looking both ways – backward and ahead.
So tonight, as I sit at the table in the dining room of the rectory at Shoreham, it doesn’t any more, already, seem strange to be here. I stayed overnight here a couple of nights last week. Here I move under the explicit patronage of Canterbury. But what feels not only extraordinary but unbelievable, is the fact that I am not expected tomorrow morning at Mercer School of Theology. I never claim to get most accomplished that I see as needed and good. But I do claim to always make a valiant try. And when the moment comes to stop, to let it go, to move on, to leave it to others, it just feels initially . . . bizarre. Unreal.
So here I am tonight with Janus. Not a bad place to be with both good memories of the past and good opportunities ahead. But nonetheless, looking straight into change with eyes in each direction, a disconcerting place.