St Anthony of the Desert

Orthodox Christian Mission

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Fr Gabriel

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In the Hollow Time

“Weary of all trumpeting, weary of all killing, weary of all songs that sing promise, non-fulfilling…”

These words are from a contemporary hymn by Martin Franzmann.

When the last laughs fall on the floor after the folderol of a big holiday, people may find a hollow in their minds and an emptiness creeping into their hearts. In the weeks after Easter, people sit among the debris and melancholy invades the soul. Weariness and gloom dim the lives of many people at those very times we think should be our happiest. Franzmann was first a New Testament scholar and secondly a hymn writer, and a very good poet. He felt this melancholy first hand and wrote this hymn in recognition of the “holiday problem.”

Psychologists have warned that big holidays pose a particular problem for lonely people and those on the borderline between madness and sanity. Borderline folks walk our streets. In fact each one of us has a touch of madness that provides a flaw to give us character. We call it idiosyncrasy.

The lonely are not necessarily alone. We are every one of us lonely in our own way. In spite of any faith and with no regard to our lot in life, times come when we feel as lonesome as a sparrow in a windstorm. In Hank Williams’ great words, “the midnight train is whining low; I’m so lonesome I could cry.” We have no insulation against such times.

Ordinary folks get lonely along with those who live with the feeling all the time. We become sullen when the promise of a season does not reach fulfillment. We become sad when our expectations are too high and crash, unmet, to the ground.

Time can tear us down, and each special time bears its own stamp of hurt and pain. There are hollow times. Lonely times hurt most because when we are lonely we feel separated from everything and everybody and God, too. “People are strange when you’re a stranger; faces look ugly out in the rain,” sang the Doors hauntingly.

Christian faith banks on the vision that eternity invades time in order to hallow those hollow times. The child of Bethlehem is a sign that God is present in the midst of loneliness. The risen Christ is a sign that our lives are wrapped in the eternal love of God. It’s an irony that, precisely when those promises do not achieve their fulfillment, God is still present. In the loneliness, in the weariness.

Another popular song years back asked, ”What if God were one of us?” To which the Christian response is, we have been saying this all along. Where have you been? God comes in the depths and the heights of life, in the flesh, to hallow the hollow times. If our spirits are low, our minds turn to cynicism, our hearts drag. But God comes into the midst of us for healing. That God could be vulnerable is radically good news.

Each of us knows hollow times of loneliness and loss as well as magical times of fulfillment and companionship. Holiness became “one of us” to take up our loneliness into the fullness of his presence and to hallow it. Holiness became “one of us” to see the hollow in another person’s eyes and to reach out in compassion. Times of loneliness can become transformed, by grace, into times of solitude. Solitude is that sense of peace and fullness in the midst of being alone. We don’t lose the loneliness so much as we gain the hallowing. Let it happen.

May 2011 issue