I recently read an article in Sojourners by Richard Rohr, one of my favorite contemporary popular theologians, about aging. Richard is a Roman Catholic priest who started the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, NM. I was lucky enough to spend some time there a few years ago and the community is a wonderful example of Christian balance; prayer that informs action and vice versa.
This particular article talked about how we have lost, or failed to adequately develop, a theology of aging, and this has been detrimental to, perhaps even opposed to, our understanding of the Paschal mystery. He states that with the first coming of Christ, humanity gained a new experience of time—one in which the past was no longer a magical “golden” age to be reclaimed or sought after, but one in which the present and future became vehicles of a new hope. This hope animated the early church and drove Western society to build its institutions, which brought the magnificent alongside the reprehensible (i.e empire, unbounded greed, etc).
The corrective, as Rohr sees it, is to reclaim a healthy vision of this time perspective, or of aging. Instead of avoiding aging through plastic surgery and botox, we who claim to follow the great time shifter Christ might be better off embracing the experiences of our present lives and growing wise through this attention. One of my favorite lines of his article talked about a painted stone he has on his hearth at home. It reads, “No wise person every asked to be young again.” I think Advent, and all our focusing on the second coming might have more to do with this than we may dare to believe.
As my friend Brian Cole turns 40 this week, I hope he takes this opportunity not to lament his departure from the last decade of late youth, but instead seeks to embrace this opportunity to put on wisdom for Christ’s sake. As a person moving into that decade myself, and encountering linear time similarly, I can only hope the same for myself.