The year is quickly coming to a close. (Once again, the season finds me wondering HOW it is upon me so fast). And this morning as I read an excerpt from Refractions by Makoto Fujimura, I had to pause.
If life seems to speed up as we tally years, if my life is a blip on the radar of history, if I hope to be more than a “blink” of goodness in my time on earth, the greatest gift I could offer would be a means of transcending the dash of this season. As this sense of time flies at me, it seems right to ponder a gift which will make life — your’s and mine — richer, fuller, more engaging, and a bigger blessing to the “close others” in our lives. Beginning now.
It occurs to me that the best gift I could give comes in the form of a question I tripped over in what I read this morning. The question is one Makoto recalled as he stepped back, breathtaken, from the beautiful painting, Madonna and Child, at the Met’s 2005 exhibit of Fra Angelico. It is “The 500 Year Question,” according to Fujimura.
“What is the five-hundred-year question? Well, it’s a long-term, historical look at the reality of our cultures that asks, What ideas, what art, what vision in our current culture has the capacity to affect humanity for more than five hundred years? It’s the opposite of the Warholian ‘fifteen minutes of fame.’ It’s also a question I raise to my teenagers, whose cutlure celebrates immediate gratification, also seeking after ‘fifteen minutes of fame.’ If our decisions matter and make ripple effects in the world, then should we not weigh what we say and do in light of the five-hundred-year question?…If Fra Angelico were alive today, he would have a hard time being apprenticed or finding anyone to teach him his craft, let alone joining an order. The church is not the first place a creative genius would look to be trained in art. That statement alone reveals how much Christians have abdicated our responsibility to steward culture…In short, we are all staggering about, or should be…those who have eyes to see. That is precisely how we should react to Fra Angelico and the five-hundred-year question. We stagger because we have lost even our ability to ask that question.”
I get sucked into the drivel of our culture…heck, of my calendar. And I, too, have teenagers. The slick, fine and beautiful garner the most attention, too many days (that and the scandalous trainwrecks outlined on the nightly news, in tabloids and entertainment “journalism”). But what can I say and do — TODAY — that has the capacity to affect humanity in 2509? Afterall, Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has planted eternity in our hearts.” When we live for less, we undoubtedly find ourselves yearning for more. Purpose. We change history by how we live now.
Though this may sound like more of a new year’s wish than a Christmas gift, I place it directly beneath the branches of your glorious tannenbaum. For I find no greater occasion to consider what has been given to us than what will truly last well-beyond when our overstuffed trashbags and overfilled stomaches are again empty. This Christmas, I humbly invite you to a Renaissance of spirit. To a creche turned Kingdom. To a silent, peaceful, revolution of heart. May it carry us both world-changingly forward — ever toward God’s creative heart.
Merry Christmas all year through…
Want an adventure? The question is it. Spend the last week of this year considering how to spend each day in the its shadow…