Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Old Wineskins

Last night, we went to my sister's house to celebrate our niece's 4th birthday. We had a lovely simple dinner, with the usual candle blowing out and ripping open of presents. My mother was there with us, so we had three generations of women together. This event is something both familiar, and ancient, old to us and relatively new to Annabel. She and her brother are zealots about the liturgy and procedure of birthdays. Aren't all kids? Over the past few days, I have been working with some old family photos and many of the pictures taken are of someone blowing out candles, surrounded by family and well-wishers. Many of the children in these photos are very grown up and many of the well wishers have joined the heavenly happy birthday chorus. And yet, we are suspended in these moments, between old and new, ancient and inventive, celebration and mourning. We are surrounded by those of the past as well as the new moments, rewriting and adapting all along the way.

He also told them a parable: ‘No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wine skins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wine skins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, “The old is good.”Luke 5:36-39 ’

The old is good, and so is the young and new. Sometimes though, we cannot ask the new to understand the old and we cannot ask the old to stretch and bend for the new. Children have to be zealots about family rituals, because it is new to them. And oldsters are bound to be nonchalant about some procedures. They have seen it all. And yet, somewhere there, the middle ground, God finds us all. Somewhere in the moments of celebration and life, the old become young and the child becomes parent. And gathered round in silent watching joy is all the love surrounding us throughout history. Jesus knew that his time was short. He knew our time was short. I want to live like time is short and that every celebration is new. Live like I might not get the chance again. And if I get a chance to be old (my kids think I'm old already), I will say with great joy, 'old is good'.

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