Today was my final Sunday before shipping out to Navy boot camp. Fr. D. asked me give the homily. I’ll try to put it online at some point. Might not be able to get around to it before shipping out this Tuesday.
I tied the attitudes of the publican — humilty, repentance, and simple trust in God’s mercy (cf. discussion of this Sunday in The Year of Grace of the Lord by A Monk of the Eastern Church) to the prophecy of St. Simeon to the Virgin Mary: “a sword shall pierce your soul, too.” When we cultivate these attitudes in our heart, we come to our own Annunciation and God is conceived and born within us.
Inevitably, this leads to hardship, as the epistle for this day reminds us. Death as the world’s corrupt mode of survival pierces our soul. St. Simeon’s prophecy in tomorrow’s gospel comes true in our own lives. However, by embracing death — death to ourselves, death to the world, death to the flesh — as Christ did in his own ultimate self-humiliation, we are granted Resurrection and victory over sin and the devil. This is what the morning prayer of the Optina elders means when it says, “Teach me to accept all that comes to me this day with spiritual tranquility. In all unforeseen occurances, let me not forget that all are sent by thee.”
Finally, I tied all this to today’s farewell, which is a death and a sword piercing my own soul, and to my acceptance of this present pain and all that will come to me in the coming weeks as my lenten ascetism.
After the annual parish meeting, there was an “Anchors Aweigh” farewell dinner in my honor. When asked to give some final, closing words, I was pretty much speechless. Mindful that I will be unable to observe Forgiveness Vespers with these people who have been the center of my life for the past nine years, all I could do was to prostrate before them and ask for their forgiveness. After that, no eye in the room remained tearless — my own included. Most people saved their final good-byes until later, because they knew that they would see me again before Tuesday, particularly at tonight’s Super Bowl festivites at the Walthers’ and the Naughtons’ homes.
Which is good, because I’m not sure I could have taken the emotional overload of saying good-bye to everyone all at once at that moment.