Mark the days and mark the years and see the distance you have come; but raise your eyes from your own steps, look up: and see the distance yet to go.
Mark the days and find us here again, the weekend after Labor Day, the first Sunday after summer’s end. Not yet fall, a new season nonetheless. By official count, the year begins the first of January; liturgically, the first of Advent; but for a parish, life’s year begins with the return to school, the return of certain sports, the resumption of Religious Education classes, of choir and Community Sunday. We resume and rejoice.
Mark the days, and mark twenty years since we looked up in shock to see our shining towers burn, and fall. We looked round in fear for another plane to fall from the sky into our own city; we looked and watched and waited for our loved ones to return, having sent them off that crystal morning toward that familiar monument, its five-sided symmetry now smashed and scorched.
A bright day recurs. The joy and hope of a new school year, of crisp fresh autumn and books and shoes and getting bigger and smarter, of learning and growing to the full measure of human nature and ability. The return from vacation, from dispersion to faraway places and diverse experiences, reuniting in the communion that nurtures our families and our faith. The restoration of right worship where limits and restrictions had prevented and pushed apart what God calls together. The fabric of life, human and divine, knit together once again by hundreds of hands and hearts, warms the affections and feeds the soul.
A dark day recurs. Memory serves to mark where we were when we first saw, when we first understood, and when we grieved. Mark that moment, and mark the impulse that raised our eyes to God in prayer, prayer for help, prayer for deliverance, prayer for understanding. Many will tell you, for their own purposes, what of our world, what of our nation, and what of our life has changed since then; and many will tell you, to scare you, what is the same. Mark for yourself, however, the distance you have come since that day. Are you closer to, or further from, the God to Whom you looked to save you?
We mark the dark days, we mark the bright. Year by year, the days return, the seasons too; they bring their remembrances and they bring their promise. The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come (Mark 4:28-29)
We mark the day they rolled the stone across the tomb (it was a large one); and the day that stone was rolled away, the tomb found empty. Where have you taken Him? Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. Not one day in the year, Easter, but one day in seven, Sunday, is the day of the Lord, Whom the tomb could not hold. We mark it weekly, we mark it together; we mark it in obedience, and we mark it in freedom. We remember what was on that day, so that we can see and recognize and believe the One Who Is in our days.
It is right and just to remember what we have endured, and what and whom we have lost. Memory nurtures prayer, and our prayer brings the ones remembered closer to the light. Prayer nurtures hope, and hope directs our eyes from the darkness toward the light, and with our eyes, our feet and our hearts as well. In hope, we bring our children and our friends, our voices and ourselves, weary or jubilant, together to the light.
We teach memory; we teach hope. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5) Mark the days and mark the years and see the distance you have come; but raise your eyes from your own steps, look up: and see the distance yet to go.