The Infinite Ocean of Being
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The Infinite Ocean of Being
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker
Although Arlene did not spend her entire life here in Port Huron, this was where she spent the majority of her more than eight decades. She was born north of here in Sanilac County, and grew up in British Columbia in circumstances she found very difficult. But after that Port Huron was her home, especially the house on Conger Street which she and her beloved husband George occupied throughout their long marriage, and where she lived alone as a widow for fourteen years. Arlene was proud of that house on Conger Street and the memories it contained for her. She found it hard to be someplace else during the final months of her life, for she loved that old house.
What seemed to me extraordinary about Arlene’s house was the way its living room and enclosed front porch looked out magnificently on the vast expanse of Lake Huron. Arlene enjoyed an unimpeded view of that tremendous inland sea from which this city gets it name. She took quiet delight in living so close to a great lake that only the width of a street and a stretch of beach separated them.
At times, certainly, the view beyond her front porch held her attention and gave her new energy. This must have happened often, particularly in her later years.
At other times she must have been unaware of that world of water only a short walk from her property because of necessity other things occupied her. Numerous duties and delights, memories and hopes preempted her awareness.
And on still other occasions she may have done what all of us too easily do: she may have acted in a way which for its smallness dishonored the magnificence only a short walk to the east. Arlene was no different from the rest of us in this regard.
But still the lake was always there. Through the long hours of the night, and when the sun was bright overhead, and when clouds moved in mass across the sky. The lake was always there: in fall and winter, spring and summer; during seasons of joy, and periods of sorrow. Through the years Arlene was there, the lake was there, silent and vast and deep, always changing, always the same.
All of us remember Arlene living in that house beside the lake. At the same time, she lived beside another great reality. St. John of Damascus rightly speaks of God as an infinite ocean of being, and we do well to remember that Arlene lived as a close neighbor to that infinite ocean of being, that divine lake too vast to be encompassed by human sight or thought or language.
At times, certainly, that infinite ocean of being her held attention and gave her new energy. This must have happened often, particularly in her later years.
At other times she must have been unaware of that vastness of being so close to her and there so constantly. Of necessity other things occupied her. Numerous duties and delights, memories and hopes preempted her awareness.
And on still other occasions she may have done what all of us too easily do: she may have acted in a way which for its smallness dishonored the magnificence of that infinite divine ocean so close to her. All of us act this way some times. We have blind spots. We do not recognize God close at hand; we fail to honor even the people closest to us.
But still for Arlene that ocean of being was always there. Through the long hours of the night, and when the sun was bright overhead, and when clouds moved in mass across the sky. Whatever the circumstances of her life, through seasons of joy, and periods of sorrow, the infinite ocean of being which we call God was there close by, silent and vast and deep, always changing, always the same.
For those of us who knew and loved her, it is hard to accept that the house on Conger Street is now forever empty of the woman who lived there for decades so close to the ever-shifting drama of the inland sea we call Lake Huron.
Yet the lake still remains. And there remains as well that for which it serves as a reminder: the infinite ocean of being, forever wild and free, that we dare to call God.
Now Arlene is in a new place. No longer on the same side of the road as before, she has been led by Christ down to the beach, walking barefoot in the sand, to the place where the land meets the waves, to that boundary where human emptiness and divine abundance meet.
Now the sight of the vast liquid horizon is forever unavoidable. That infinite ocean of being is her vision and her delight. Somehow its depths reveal to her the truth of her life, and the truth of Christ which embraces all lives. There she finds new and unexpected energy.
She finds healing as well. The wounds of the past inflicted on her heart by others, along with her own blind spots and failures in caring–all these burdens of our common condition will receive their consummate healing, their final resolution, and be lifted from her by the grace of the Lamb who once was slain and now lives forever.
The time will come–in a time outside of time–when Arlene, the old woman we knew and cared for, shall find herself with a body fresh and new, her own resurrection reality, and she shall join hands in the endless line of saints who move along the water’s edge, and there she shall forever dance and sing like a young child, rejoicing in the infinite ocean of being whose other name is Love.
Copyright 2008, Charles Hoffacker. Used by permission. Fr. Hoffacker is the author of A Matter of Life and Death: Preaching at Funerals (Cowley Publications), a book devoted to helping busy clergy prepare funeral homilies that are faithful, pastoral, and personal.