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Autumn Leaves, the Rich Mash, Layering Grace, and the Paschal Mystery

[caption id="attachment_5633" align="alignright" width="300"] Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting[/caption] Fall is late this year in Northern Ohio. From my reading chair I look out on three layers of color. The closest tree is still mostly green, and through its branches trees in golds and yellows, and beyond them, the visual prize, that glorious orange-pink-flame that even on this wet day, glows from the maples, and below them the long wine hedge of burning bush. I’m grateful, and praise the Creator for the color that stays and plays late against the inevitable gray November sky.  I remember a little rhyme I made up as a child: “Fall is here/ I cannot cheer,” knowing then, as now, that soon all the trees would be bare except the sullen oaks, who would hold stubbornly to their brown leaves well into the winter. What was there to do but grab these brief bursts of joy, and collect our favorites and noisily shuffle through them on the sidewalks and jump in the mounds someone recently raked? By our porch, the tomato plants won’t quit, vines still sprouting little green orbs that will not have time to redden into those wonderful pops of sweetness, and I’m loathe to disabuse them of their hopes—or mine—by tearing them down. But someday soon I will, and also uproot the zinnias and cosmos that soldier raggedly on as the chill increases, consoling myself with the wisdom that returning to the earth enriches next year’s blooming. Mary Oliver in Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness* puts it so well: “the world descends into a rich mash…” and her poem continues with the yearly lesson: “knowing as we must, how the vivacity of what was is married/ to the vitality of what will be?”  What a strikingly succinct way to describe the layers of the earthly-heavenly-human-divine ever-cycling mystery of dying and rising. I sense an invitation to stir reflectively my own “rich mash” of living, those seasons  of joy and pain, certainty and doubt, loss and gain, sin and forgiveness, a sort of archeology of life’s mystery. I’m led beyond the layers of my own life in this time, and pulled to the deeper, vaster, layers of God’s creation opened for us by scientists, peering outward and backward to picture the processes of space-time far beyond us; peering inward to trace the almost invisible workings of a  universe within us, a billion particles that work wonders within to make me “Me” and that form us and all of creation. All that Rich Mash, marinating and vivifying in the love of the Creator--all of this living and dying and giving back again we share with the cosmos and our mothering earth and ancestors in family and faith, and our particular Dominican life down the centuries. O Layering Grace. Now, watching the bright trees shouting praise, even as their leaves fall, I wonder. What will our lives tell of the presence of God and the Word made flesh and the ever-erupting Paschal Mystery? What will be our Holy Preaching? How will we, tomorrow’s Rich Mash, witness today to the mystery of the vivacity and vitality of the Gospel life? *From the collection A Thousand Mornings

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