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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Endless Waiting In This Season Of Advent

Almost all our life is spent in waiting. The best things in life are those that resulted from our patient waiting. Besides, if we glance back into our own history, we find a whole truth to this—we were brought up across years of preparations that our parents made. Once in their youth they dreamt about us. They went to school; they sought the best opportunities; they worked hard and, took each step up the stairway at a time, they waited in anticipation of raising their own family and bring to life the air castles they had built in their idealistic stage. And in those nine months of being inside the womb of our mother, they waited for us most excitedly. We came out into the world seeing our first love—our parents who also oriented us about how to love and be loved through patient waiting.

Do you think the waiting ends there? The waiting continues—waiting for us to grow, waiting to see how we first learn to write our initials and set foot in school until we are able to stand confidently our ground, and so on and on. We often grumble of getting bored with childhood, and cannot wait to reach adulthood only to find ourselves in the end longing to be children again. We are so anxious about the future, and forget the abundance of the present, and then complain about not enjoying our time or not being given time.

Waiting is the unforeseen friend we meet along the journey. The long winding road ahead of us requires from every traveler a certain level of growth and maturity which only waiting can afford to give us. We need time to grow and mature
like worming ourselves out from the protective cocoon. We can only say to ourselves that we are strong only through time. We can say that we are patient only when we have experienced how to really wait. Like the Mustard seed, no matter how tiny it is but when allowed time, can turn into a bush where birds in the sky can nestle on its branches.

In a homily beautifully written by Fr. Jim Donelan: he says that most of all, waiting means waiting for someone else. If we never learn how to wait, then we’ll never learn how to love someone other than ourselves. In Greek mythology, Penelope waited for twenty years for Ulysses to come home. Weaving all day and unweaving all night, many things changed in her life bit by bit even though often times too her life seemed nothing was happening.

This was true for Jesus who waited across long years for the fulfillment of his mission. He did not rush to do his public ministry; he knew if it was not yet his time. It was through patient waiting that Jesus showed his great love for humankind. Why would Jesus spend the longest 30 years of his life shunning the public eye? Why did he not start his public ministry at his early 20's and he could have cured more or raised more people from the dead?

Yet, it is still hard to see in human eyes the power of waiting by which our God has saved us. How is it possible?

I guess the answer can only be something that is personal to us, to me? How have I personally felt God's endless longing and waiting for me despite my obstinacy?

This season of advent, season of waiting, let us beg for the encounter of being waited and relish the feeling that there is actually no end to that kind of waiting. The promise to us all this advent can come if and only if we are willing to wait and to trust in waiting’s slow process.

For more themes on Advent Son of the Prodigal

Monday, November 28, 2005

A Gathering (My First English Short Story)

Every last breathage [1] of each vegetum [2], a great banquet is organized by the High Council of Trees to serve as a regular gathering for all plants and trees on the face of the Earth. In their preparations for the next gathering, the Council decided to confer honorary degrees to all the trees found in the Bible.

They all agreed that it must be a magnificent one; and as a first step they invited every kind of tree across the lands and oceans. From the Hyssop to the mighty Cedar, each of them received an invitation and each one of them will be awarded distinctions and honors as regards how they have lived their mission on earth. The organizers charted series of inquiries, as well as ballots were sent to all trees in order to decide the proper entitlements. But, as it has been a practice in previous gatherings, popularity more than credentials was a big make way to bagging the awards.

After everything was set, the great ceremonies officially began with the trumpeters composed of colorful and cascading trumpet flowers, honeysuckles and bell flowers sounding their fanfares and bamboos piping their horns to produce heavenly symphonies. The choirs of nightingales sang to their hearts content to give soothing welcome to all the arriving guests who have journeyed far just to grace this prestigious gathering. Several seats of honor had been set for the guests, and before each was laid a tablet of stone with engraved epithet of its famed recipient.

Many attended showcasing the best of their kinds. They were all fully clad in their own foliage, the finest that they had, while others in their colorful floral displays. Many others who were famous for their fruits dangled their produce to the great envy of the others.

Compared to the earlier inhabitants on the planet across treestory, plants and trees of the latter vegeta have gradually lost their antiquity and calm such that gatherings have become more and more vain and worldly and the participating guests enter into a bragging match. Those included in the Sacred Scriptures, who were once renowned for their inviolability, behaved no different from the rest. Many came to sing their own praises, their own stories, achievements, and all the other attractive traits that they could boast about themselves.

They all gathered in an oversize antechamber surrounded by ambient lights almost resembling the blue sky. It was filled with plants and trees dancing, and you can find in the corners, being served by hordes of pitcher plants, sybarites aestivating and drinking as if there was no tomorrow. The hall was divided in the middle by a huge ramp looping all the way to the hundreds of arrayed seats of honor adorned with gold and diamonds.

So the party went on. The most popular trees paraded in front of the ecstatic assembly: Fat Olive, Debonair Fig, Royal Mustard, Mighty Cedar, Graceful Willow, Deciduous Oak, and the crowd favorites like the Almond, the Walnut and the Pistachio. All of them adorned themselves with flickering light bulbs, balls, and all sorts of colorful frills or tensils mimicking how humans decorate their own Christmas trees.

“Look I brought a present for everyone,” the fancy Fat Olive got the attention of the crowd when she started distributing Pure Olive Oil to them.

“I have anointed a long line of Kings with this same oil. Please come and serve yourselves and feel like royal Kings and Queens in your dreams.” Throngs of avid oil users gravitated towards her creating a slight stir inside the antechamber.

“Make way…make way,” in a thundering voice, the juggernaut Mighty Cedar terrified the young plants playing on the grass. They ran to the sides when they saw the giant coming, covering large areas with his thick and towering trunk and branches crushing everything that was on its path. Because of its superior quality, fragrance and durability, the Cedar symbolizes strength, dignity, and grandeur.

“No one will ever equal my superior quality for, as all of you know, the First and the Second temples in Jerusalem were constructed out of my own wood,” continued the Cedar while everyone just showed agreement so as not to enrage the giant.

There was another commotion when like Fat Olive, the Debonair Fig distributed kerchiefs made of woven fig leaves saying to the crowd, “I have clothed the first humans after they ate the forbidden fruit with these same elegantly woven leaves.”

In the end, there was one tree that arrived at the doorway. She hobbled towards the great hall with difficulty and looked so petrified. All the trees and plants present were terrified at the grim and eerie sight of the creature. To the dismay of everyone, they sulked in their seats exchanging furtive looks at each other. The Fat Olive grumbled, “Who in the tree world invited such an old crone, she is a disgrace to the occasion.”

The Royal Mustard was more subtle in his remark, “I think our fellow here made a mistake in coming over to our festivity. She might need some help.” Others made fun of the spectacle muttering, “We cannot believe what we are seeing. We thought this only happens in Fairy Tales. I’m afraid this old crone might cast an evil spell on all of us present here.” Everyone laughed to hide their feelings of terror.

Let me tell you the poor story of this unfortunate tree.

This tree was believed to be dead some years after the crucifixion. Her kind belongs to the evergreen tree like the Fir, which can stand her ground in a bleak forest amid heavy blankets of winter-cold snow. She is also otherwise known as the Tree of Life. She still bears the nail marks that have gotten through her trunk and branches. There is nothing extraordinary about her; in fact only criminals are left to die hanging on her branch. Criminal’s blood is splattered all over her rough surface making her so grim and ugly to look at.

But, Oh God, it is this tree that bore the Fruit that saved the whole world. She is the great tree that restored life to the whole world. She is the reason for everything that the world is now and will be. Animals and humans alike will forever kiss her with reverent lips.

The grumbling and exchange of stealthy looks continued. It seemed that among all those present in the gathering no one recognized her except when a Little Sycamore shouted in the middle of the crowd, “It’s the Tree of the Cross; it’s the Tree of the Cross. She’s got nail marks on her."

There was a bellowing uproar amidst the flabbergasted plants and trees upon hearing those words of the Little Sycamore. They were all brought back to their senses and every one of them approached to help the poor tree. They have gathered and woven clothes of leaves to put on her. A bright shining star was put on her apex to become lasting sign for all creatures to find their way to this tree. Jubilation continued and once again they have rekindled in the tree world the true spirit of their gathering.

Sch. Jomari V. Manzano, SJ

[1] A breathage in the tree world is equivalent to a century in the human world.

[2] A vegetum spans to a millenium. Ten breathages is equivalent to a vegetum in the tree world. They hold gatherings once in a millenium because a tree takes centuries to move from one place to another.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Novice Spelunker

Have you ever been to the interiors of a mountain? Have you ever stepped barefoot into the softest, serene and quiet part of the mountain wild and the undomesticated? Last week I had an extraordinary experience of entering one of the caves of Sierra Madre in Cagayan Valley. The Sierra Cave is one among many mystique caves found in the Philippine islands that continue to capture the imagination of intrepid men and women across the globe.

As a novice spelunker, it came as a surprise for me to witness such underground wonders sealed within subterranean vaults or grand halls of calcareous/limestone formations. They have been deposited there unperturbed for hundreds and thousands of years.

It was my first time to see a living cave. The Sierra cave is closed to the public as a way of respecting the speleothems (cave deposits) that continue to evolve there. They are alive when they gleam like crystals at the touch of light. I was extra careful in not touching the limestone formations because I was afraid of disturbing their growth. I was told that the average growth rates are about 1 cm for every 15 years to ½ inch for every 100 years. The cave ceilings, floors and walls have been riddled with all kinds of formations through thousand years of drop by drop acid rainwater passing through bedrock cracks. Many different speleothems are common in caves including soda straw, the common carrot-shaped stalactites, stalagmites and columns. Nestor, our accredited DENR guide showed us other formations like “baconstrips,” cave coral or “popcorn,” “flakes” and “pretzel.” I became famished upon my first look at such crystalline structures.

Until now I continue to marvel at what I had witnessed. I guess the wonder does not only stop at the sheer sight of it. I marvel more about the fact that within its hushed confines, where the only sounds are those of the trickling water and the shrill chirp of pesky and frightening bats and the fact that for some thousands of years its narrow passages never had a taste of a single ray of sunlight, the cave has been a world of breathtaking wonders and natural beauty. Again, this is a testament to the character of our God of wonders, who work in mysterious and very clandestine ways only to reach out to us.