May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my Strength and

my Redeemer. Amen.

Little boys like to discover how their bodies compare to their fathers. They place small hands against large hands. Feel for whiskers. See if the fingers of both their hands are able yet to stretch around larger, gruffer, firmer arms. In his final days, I felt very much like a little boy. Smoothing my fingers up and down my father s arms. Running my fingers across the scruff of his face. Placing both of my hands around his, to help him hold a small wooden cross, which he held his right hand.

Strength is probably the most universal of sons first fascinations with their fathers. How they have so little. How he has so much. Let your hand be on the man of your right hand, upon the Son of man whom you yourself made strong. It

1

suddenly vulnerable to the many cancers of a fallen world. All according to time. Perhaps I would have sought to shield him from all vulnerability. 2 . Or perhaps even shield myself from his vulnerability. into disarmedness. Slaying giants.is no accident that the history of infant Israel is so saturated with spectacles of strength. into stillness. might have provoked my horror and anguish. But sons too grow strong. And fathers forfeit strength. And character. especially men whether as husbands or fathers or sons to journey into the heart of vulnerability. My father knew of a strength and a courage far greater and far stronger than that which fascinates a small child. Had my childish fascination with my father s strength persisted until the end. at any cost. perhaps his feeble body. Overthrowing Pharaohs. Tumbling down walls. But my father dedicated his mature years to helping others.

The day we told my father his prognosis. Over the 358 days of my father s journey toward ultimate stillness. Just beyond his skin. The nurse didn t correct him when he told her it was winter. All that week the skies had been a cold chalky gray.My father died vulnerable. His arms withered. late snows fell. As a seemingly impervious existence continued ever on. His gate faltered. the sun was high and warm. Immobile. And robbed of language. even to the point of touch. my mother and sisters and I walked with him down a path ever increasing submission. and a very gentle breeze failed to stir branches that didn t have any leaves. and for days the snows held on to the north and south of everything. And the words of even his inner voice fell all but silent. It had only been spring a week and from his window it hadn t been very obvious what 3 .

downtrodden men poured in and out of my father s and mother s home like blood through a heart. trees. he d always say. and I want to stop the car and walk out into the hills. I look out at the quiet beauty of everything. I haven t the foggiest. Over the years.season it was. For a year now I have been thinking much about the quiet of the world. stars. Sometimes I do. well beyond wages. often provided for their material needs. My father employed them. The everywhere quiet of hills. loved them. fathered 4 . My father had just that sort of strength that we see in the world of our Creator s creation. The skies cleared the day we told him. I am easily overcome. Sometimes while driving. My father was always so amazed by stars and astronomy. how we can perceive the light of stars that have long since passed. I was angry the day was so beautiful. our bodies.

There were philosophers. Sometimes these men called my father The Captain. in knowledge the more I searched elsewhere. It is no accident that the first two Commandments of Moses speak to the idolatrous eyes of self-fulfillment. ever more narrowly. When I came home from all of my many wherevers. for other fathers. these men made me feel as though the prince of some great empire. The more intently I sought after these great men. whom I felt far surpassed the great threshold that. Men whose strength had little to do with the expanse of their bodies or the gruffness of their faces. Poets. Novelists. But I was a son who had very nearly grown into the stature of his father. Theologians. the wider that grew a separation between my father and me. for a time.them. And the nearer I came to my father s full form in strength. separated me from my father. that the first 5 .

never as individuals. This mutuality is the gift my father so generously bestowed. Within the inescapable bonds of our mutuality.great sin of Adam and Eve was an act of self-nourishment. The Son desired to possess his own Being. intent upon the idolatries of my very many declarations of independence. Of a Father. life. Being. And like a Prodigal. and that the great sin of the Prodigal Son was not his wantonness or his squandering. was not his nature. We exist only in Communion. but also quite commonly means: Being. When the Son asked his Father for his share of inheritance. arises. but only ever as one. he asked his father for his ousia. On many. but his self-possession. loosed of all relational bonds. apart from his Father. But this. which not only means substance. Ousia also means Being. And when husbands and wives share in the divine ecstasy of their communion. and 6 . to own himself. as a Communion. of course. On me. He was a Son.

faith and hope . But I did not know myself. Augustine once wrote: And now regarding love. For when we ask whether someone is a good man. turned upon itself. St. Elsewhere than from whom I came.my likewise cries for ever new kings. to fight my wars. each time. The gaze of my many wishes fell upon many men. Or my desires. according to my many whims. My own desires.that is. 7 . And I saw only: myself. but what he loves.for the more richly it dwells in a man. we are not asking what he believes. my gaze. ultimately. or hopes. I so often sought elsewhere. which the apostle says is greater than the other two . the better the man in whom it dwells. and in the flurry of such searching. to defend me from my enemies. Because I did not know the person from whom I came.

He saw half of this hope come to fulfillment!) But my father loved me. My father hoped much. He loved my sisters. mercifully. and that one day I d take over his business.My father believed much. and beliefs. The agenda. (I think for a time he hoped I d really love air filters. Which is the active manifestation of a WHO. 8 . He loved my mother. Love shows itself. Uprightness. He loved God. Compassion. and goals. He loved justice. In an age when so much of our talk is about ideals. The platform. values. and uprightly. as evidenced by this Funeral Mass. Not a WHAT. Incarnate. Mercy. compassionately. And. his beliefs changed through time. Show me the campaign of love. Love is it itself. Which only ever meant that actively he loved justly. The quarterly statement. Enacted. ambitions. and plans THINGS my father was a prophetic example of the sublime quietude and activity of Love.

My father was my image of the Incarnation. My father once wrote: Find the courage to face your personal giants and you will find the Lord to be a kind and loving Father. Matthew. Echoing St. exemplified. and how sacrifice is a gift not to be spoken or conjectured. my father indeed was a Christ to those who knew him. example. and gentleness. true might. He showed me. Be not afraid.If Christ came not to be served but to serve. Sought no acclaim. And he asked for no reward. and patience. he also wrote: Clean the inside of your cup and the outside will be clean also. I came to Christ Incarnate through the gentle shepherding. the meaning of servanthood. 9 . is love. how justice in fact is mercy. but shown. and compassion. how love is self-sacrifice. and love of my father. how might.

a barber s brush. He left not a moment early. When my father passed. a washcloth. and he said simply: Yes. his body. And through all this he would kiss my lips upon all my comings and goings. The end of my father s life was the resounding Incarnate silence of a Mother s fiat. He fathered the sons in whom my sisters saw his image. I gave him a closer shave than I had 10 . All the while giving over his mind. and a razor. And I gave him one final shave perhaps the most iconic of skills a son learns from a father.I saw my father s strength when he could no longer lift his razor to his face and I asked him if he wanted me whom he had taught to help him. and eventually. I prepared two bowls of warm water. He played with grandchildren as best as his body and his mind allowed him. He avoided no trial. He would tell my mother to sit in front of him so that he could massage her shoulders. his spirit. Let it be done according to Your will. a hot towel.

and no inheritance. I rubbed in a cool cream over everywhere my razor had been. And the Great Him welcoming him home. Like the celestial wonders that so captivated him.ever given him. James. the Incarnate way to The Eternal Father. as a son. in my recollections of my father s lavish love. Just him. as a man. Sitting beside him. as Augustine said: a great man. And the light of his soul shone even after his passing. no image of another. recollecting his great loves. or myself. listening to records of Cynthia Clawson. I cried out for no king. I see more clearly that Eternal Father from whom Love s lavishness always and ever is. sitting beside him. When I was an infant my father would lie down on the ground and lay me upon his chest. so. We were 11 . I once did this with my sister s son. I saw. And as my father showed me. And then I sat a long while beside him feeling his cooling skin.

I didn t have any vinyls of Cynthia so I sang to him Twinkle. So much vulnerability. Litter Star over and over. Between my belt and chin. Trusting. until I finally was whispering the words and James was sleeping. That was a first for me. at Mercy Hospital. during my father s rehab after surgery. Not rubrics and doctrines and history s many and lovely 12 . That half hour was remarkable. For nearly a whole half hour he slept right there on my chest. Twinkle. this is the stuff faith is made of. of a baby her mother s breast. and that the rise and fall of my chest kept a constant rhythm. Just sleeping. trying to make sure that I didn t make too much noise. He couldn t see Rebekah anywhere and so he cried out for her with that little cry of his. I was very aware of my breathing. And so narrowly and particularly located. I did pretty well. but after half an hour he woke up.down the hall. The quiet acceptance of an infant receiving his father s chest.

eloquences. Is not consumed by darkness. Of all Being. we stand now beholding the brilliance of a star that has passed. upon the breast of his Eternal Father. Like the infant son he himself once was. Just trusting nourishment. alive. Immortal. Behold. The hope he had inside him. again he rests. coming down out of heaven from God. Behold. This is the justice my father showed me. and the sea was no more. From the Giver of one s being. nurtured. but whose light still reaches our eyes. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying. prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. of which he was ever ready to make proclamation. I saw a new heaven and a new earth. guided. He will dwell with them and they will be his people. always. And we. I saw also the holy city. and God himself. God's dwelling is with Man. befriended. The truth. those whom my father touched. Invisible. a new Jerusalem. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away. will be 13 .

Amen. ACCOMPLISHED. wailing or pain. for the old order has passed away. And I shall be his God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. The victor will inherit these gifts. The beginning and the end. IS.with them. I make all things new. 14 . To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water. as their God. The Alpha and the Omega. And he will be my son. IT. Behold. I AM. and there shall be no more death or mourning.