Communing with the ancestors


Last month when I was vacationing on St. John’s Island, I had a wonderful afternoon hiking with my 20 year old son Andrew along a trail that went over the small mountain on the center of the island.  We came upon this lovely spot where water collects in small pools among boulders.  There are primitive drawings there carved into the rocks, dating back approximately 800 years.  Apparently the ancient people who inhabited the island well before the invasion of westerners would come to this spot to commune with their ancestors. Some of the simple drawings of faces had been carved right above the surface of the water, so that if you sat in the right spot you would see two images:  the actual carving and its reflection in the pool of water.  It was a clearly an attempt to express the mystery of the two worlds sensed by people throughout human history:  the material and the spiritual realms, existing in parallel dimensions.  I found it extraordinarily moving.

In Christianity we speak of the communion of saints; our spiritual ancestors who have gone before us, and yet in some mysterious way are still present with us.  Perfected in God’s love, they root for us as we plod on through this life, meeting the challenges, which ultimately are all challenges to learn what it means to love well.

Time is puzzling.  Sometimes it seems to move so painfully slow.  At other times it whips by frighteningly fast, and it becomes poignantly obvious that in a wink of an eye we will cross through to that other dimension where the ancestors endure.  My mother, once so vital, has grown frail.  My children, once so dependent, have grown very independent of me.  But the soul connection is not broken — not even by death.  “Love never ends,” says the apostle Paul.  One day I will root for my kids and their kids and their kids’ kids from the far side. In the company of Christ who loves all,  I expect I will be rooting for human beings everywhere upon this earth who struggle to meet life’s challenges in love.

Katherine Schreiner died yesterday at the age of 93. Throughout her life Katherine remained remarkably close to her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren.  The connection remains, even in death.


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