SUCCESS & OLD AGE IN GOD’S EYES
(Saturday, September 23)
“Rejoice, O barren one who has not given birth until now, / for behold, you have conceived the lamp of the Sun, / and He shall enlighten all the earth, which is afflicted with blindness. / Dance, O Zachariah, and cry out with boldness: / The Prophet of the Most High is about to be born.” (Troparion of the Conception of John the Baptist)
Today’s feast of the Conception of St. John the Baptist (NC) has me thinking, again, about the prophecy of Isaiah 51:1, (quoted at the beginning of the Troparion of this feast), about one “barren” that finally gives birth, as did the parents of the Forerunner, Elizabeth and Zachariah. It’s so counter-cultural, to rejoice on this occasion: An elderly couple conceives a child when all its peers were already grandparents, and this child becomes a loner in the desert, with no career or title either in the secular or religious spheres of that time, who loses his head at the whim of a vindictive woman. We celebrate this whole story as a glorious success. And that it is, in the big picture of Salvation History, visible only to God at the time.
Can we glean some lesson from this, for our own cross-carrying journeys? I think we can relativize our own perceptions of “glory” and “success,” as well as our ideas of how much new growth we might expect in our old age. In our times, we tend to think of childhood as the formative phase of our lives, so many of us look back to it for answers to unresolved issues we may have in adulthood. But in Salvation History we see several examples of people who realized their vocations in their old age, for example, Abraham and Sarah, Sts. Simeon the God-Bearer, Joachim and Anna, and Zachariah and Elizabeth. Let’s keep our hearts, eyes, and ears open to how God is calling us to new wisdom, new challenges, and new growth today, regardless of our age. Because He never gets tired, nor do we get tiresome or too old for Him, Who created us to be with Him for eternity.