The Greeks had two different words to refer to what we call “time”. Chronos, which describes the “time of day” or time elapsed (hours/minutes) and Kairos, which means “a time when . . .”, a period of time where something important or life changing happens. These kinds of times are not limited by minutes or seconds. It’s a time when “time stands still.” A friend of mine calls them “moments”.
Every once in a while life serves up an event which breaks through the chronos, the “everydayness” of existence. Familiar happenings: appointments, meetings, sleeping and rising, eating, washing, gassing the car, shopping, telephoning, suddenly give way to…..a moment. Most times it comes very simply, so if you’re not looking you can miss it. But, what happens can be wonderful….these moments punch a hole in the routine of life and for a second, I believe we can see and feel something of the presence of God.
One of these happened to me some years ago. It was Thursday (my day off!). I was hanging around the rectory doing nothing in particular. A call came from Rochester General. A man had been brought to emergency; he was Catholic and the family was requesting a priest to anoint him. I remember driving to the hospital thinking, ‘How long will this take? I’ve got things to do.’
Well, it was serious. A heart attack. He had died. Fr. Endres, the hospital chaplain (a great priest by the way) was there already and had anointed the man. I was shown to the waiting room to be with the family (mother, daughter, son and granddaughter). They were devastated, of course. But, even in this terrible moment, there was a quiet dignity – even the beginnings of thankfulness. “He was a good man.” “He went without suffering.” “Now he is in peace.”
But then, “the moment” I was telling you about, we all went to the trauma room and said a prayer over the deceased. That’s where it happened. The granddaughter (a women in her 20’s I think) stood by the bed, her face a bright red from holding in the tears. After our prayers and as we were about to leave, she put her cheek to her grandfather’s forehead and between sobs of tears she said, “Oh grandpa! I love you!”
Everything stopped. There it was. The beauty! She was at that moment a picture of the human heart as it was created by God – to be full of love. (How blessed we are to be able to love; forgetting ourselves we are poured out for the beloved.)
Suddenly, all the mundane, mean little experiences of life stood redeemed in this one moment of pure tenderness. She reminded me of Mary Magdalene weeping for love beside the tomb of Jesus.
How beautiful are those who love. Their hearts point to their Creator, the source of love. “When will we see you face to face, Oh Lord?” Her tears sort of washed me clean. I was wakened to love which will last forever . . . because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.
It was a good day off.
PS. This all happened 12 years ago . . . chronos time. I still feel that moment now in Kairos time.