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Anne Dilenschneider: Stepping Through the Gate to the New

January 1st, 2010, 04:01 am admin Leave a comment Go to comments

In Christian scriptures, one of the many descriptions of God is “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 1:8a, 21:6b, 22:13 NRSV). It’s a name that covers everything, because Alpha (Α) and Omega (Ω) are the first and last letters of the Classical Greek alphabet.

“Alpha.” “Aleph.” “A.” Jewish tradition reminds us that the alphabet begins here because this is the sound we make as we take in our first breath. It is the beginning of the indwelling of the mystery of life and God in human beings. The beginning of God’s presence in human time, with and within human persons.

“Omega.” Not just “end,” in Greek it also means “gate.” It’s even shaped like a gate. A gate into the new. A gate into mystery. A gate into breathtaking possibilities!

A gate is a threshold place. A liminal place. A risky place. Through it, we pass from one world into another.

When I was a child, my family spent the summers at my grandparents’ home on a lake in northwestern Ohio. Every year, on the first day of summer vacation, the two-hour journey from our home — an eternity from a child’s point of view — ended at the gates to their property.

They were wondrous gates. Two gray stone pillars supported the mossy roof. And the roof hosted a row of metal owls perched above a sign which read: “Merrywood.” Heavy, black wrought-iron gates swung inward from the pillars to let cars pass inside. We knew these were no ordinary gates. They were sites of intrigue and danger — “jails” and “castle keeps” and “dungeons” — when they held us captive in the stone niches on either side. They were the entrance to a time and place of play, wonder, imagination and mystery.

Beyond the gates lay a world that was quite different from our home neighborhood. My family stayed in the big white house, while my grandparents reigned over Pepsi floats in the afternoons in their cottage next door. The garage next to the gravel drive smelled of dust and paint and oil and metal. Our fishing poles, a well-used ping-pong table, and the propeller from the plane my aunt crash-landed at age 16 were kept in the boathouse. Trees fronted the lakeshore, and the woods beyond were ours to explore for wild berries and hidden ponds with cousins and summer friends until we heard the farm bell by the kitchen porch ringing to announce mealtimes.

The gate to Merrywood led to a world of wonder. It was the place where I first learned about mystery. How the first dark movements within bubbly clusters of frog’s eggs become wily amphibians that elude capture. Where to dig for the best bait worms. The patience required for fishing. How the calm of a lake on a still afternoon can erupt into wild, stormy waves that thrash and tear at the shore. I learned about the precariousness of life when a bolt of lightning ripped the tall pine by the dining room window into long spears and sent them crashing through the glass, narrowly missing my brother.

Every new experience led to Omega. The end of what I knew. The gate to “Ah!” and to awe — to Alpha, to Aleph, to the beginning again, to what awaits in the continuing adventure with the mystery many call God or the Holy or Spirit.

Years ago, in New Mexico, I learned a Native American prayer practice for greeting the new day from one of my dear teachers, the wise Seneca elder and Franciscan nun, José Hobday. Over the years, I’ve found that it’s a good three-step practice for transitions as well. Here’s how I practice this prayer:

Seneca Prayer (from Sister José Hobday)

1) Take a step into the new day. Not back into yesterday. Not ahead into tomorrow. Into this day, today. Welcome this day and the gift of life.
2) Take a step into yourself. Not into your partner. Not into your brother or sister. Not into your mother or father. Into yourself and your own experience and integrity.
3) Take a step into mystery. Although there may be plans for the day, none of us truly knows what will happen. So, step willingly into all the unexpected surprises of the next moments and hours. Ah!

This is my practice for the moment between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. This how I will step from Alpha through Omega to Alpha again.

Note: Sister Jo died in April 2009. You can learn more about her through her wonderful books: Simple Living: The Way to Inner Freedom and Stories of Awe and Abundance.

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