Old Age in a Twilight of Idols
“Son, support the old age of thy father,
and grieve him not in his life;
And if his understanding fail, have
patience with him, and despise him not
when thou art in thy strength: for the
relieving of the father shall not be
forgotten. Despise not a man in his
old age; for we also shall become old.”
3.14, 8.7 )
live in a society that idolizes, apotheosizes, youth
to the point of obsession.
It is nothing
less than idolatry, and the idol chosen — the young
man, the young woman — is a poor substitute for
God, being at best the mere image of God ... an
image concealed beneath thin superficialities, obscured
by cosmetics and disfigured by scalpels. This empty,
designer world, has called all ages to its feet
to fill them with self-loathing and spurious shame
... until they conform to the “model” that some
effete and lecherous mogul holds up to them as the
ideal ... the ideal that to fall short of is shame.
And for the few who starve themselves sufficiently,
purge themselves through vomitus and laxatives,
who pay great sums and travel great distances in
some empty hope of fame and fortune, or at the siren
call of “youth”, the reward is ... exploitation!
Body, dignity, wallet, all three.
How did we end up in this sad state of affairs?
Is this the patrimony we pass onto our children:
if you are not comely, you are worthless. If your
body does not fit some arbitrary parameters it,
too, is worthless. When your skin loses the glow
of youth and acquires the patina of maturity, you
fall by the side. Life exists in a small and ever
so brief window between the blemishes of adolescence
and the first lines of wisdom. After the one and
before the other, there is no life — and if you
never fell into those biometrics, those increasingly
diminutive parameters dubbed “beauty” — you never
had a life to begin with and never will.
An instant, a misstep, a fall, an accident, an illness
... and your life vanishes in an instant and you
are consigned to lesser forms of life. Right?
If you're the Mogul of Models, the Purveyor of False
Youth, and can make a fortune off false promises
... then yes. To you it is.
It is not, however, the case for every father, every
mother of every child, of every man, every woman
who walks the face of this earth. They see beauty.
They see something more than a pound of flesh in
a child, a person. And the child sees something
more than a biometrical model in her mother, in
his father — who surrendered so much of their own
youth for their children. What grandchild has not
found something more beautiful in the breath of
eternity surrounding a grandmother holding them
dearly in love ... something of far greater beauty
still than a youth that has long passed?
Because we have lost our sense of God, of the holy
and good, we distance ourselves frantically from
death and fixate ourselves on youth. Who has not
felt a pang of sadness in his heart upon seeing
a woman clinging to youth that has gone, oblivious
to any beauty within herself. Instead of acquiring
character, they have opted for a caricature. The
world has done this to them every bit as it does
it to our children, and both are tragic, for both
have been robbed of dignity.
We have become
idolaters of ourselves, humankind is becoming increasing
self centered, self absorbed, and it is at a great
cost and loss.
For most people today, their body is the main focal
point of their lives — at the expense of the mind
and soul. What an unprofitable and foolish trade!
One endures. One does not. One grows in beauty,
and one diminishes.
Worse still, countless numbers of us are suffering
from spiritual anorexia: we are starved of that
which will give us health and life, the Gospel of
Christ, the Lord Jesus Himself in the Bread of Angels!
What a great disservice we do our children in our
constant attentiveness to ourselves! We are cheating
our children, denying them that necessary example
of growing old with grace and into God — a path
that they, too, must walk one day!
of Life — only the Word of Life
Instead of our vanity and fetish-of-the-flesh, we
should be passing on to our children our own wisdom
and experience of life, and that which will in turn
help them to choose rightly in their own lives.
It does not take extraordinary acumen to see how
miserably we are failing. How often the elderly
and aging are relegated to the the margins of our
lives, instead of revered and honored. In our breathless
pursuit of youth, of physical beauty, of notability
in the world, we have no time for them. After all,
“it’s our time now! They had theirs.” To our great
misfortune, we shall hear these words from the mouths
of our own children —d age does nothing to assist
those now on the threshold of it. If you are not
there yet, you soon will be ...
Most of us will eventually grow to experience old
age, and it will not be of our choosing. No false
promise, no “miraculous" elixir, no great stride
in science — not even the most competent cosmetologists
— can stave it off.
God intends that our old age should be the richest,
perhaps even the most productive time of our lives,
the time when the ugly accretions of the world and
its superficiality fall away and we become transparent
vessels of the love of God that others may see something
much more clearly of Him in us, and through us be
drawn to Him.
It is actually a time for the spiritual harvest
of our souls, a harvest that we can freely share
with others, having borne much fruit and in great
abundance. We are then the
“Fields white to harvest.”
Let us take time to see what message are we passing
down to the next generation. Let us re-examine our
own attitude to aging — and see where, with
Gods grace, we can change and grow in such a way
that we may support and help others along every
path in life, from the most innocent in the womb,
to the most vulnerable outside it.
Look with love deeply into the eyes of an old person:
he or she has born the heat of the day, and has
passed through much trial and suffering life. if
you look with love you will see a depth of great
beauty, a mirror of eternity, you will look into
the eyes of a soul soon to close its own ... only
to re-open them upon the very face of God!
A Poor Clare Colettine
Boston Catholic Journal
to the Sacred Deposit of Faith
entrusted to the Holy See in Rome
opera tua ... quia modicum habes virtutem,
et servasti verbum Meum, nec non negasti
know your works ... that you have but
little power, and yet you have kept
My word, and have not denied My Name.”
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