I love my job for lots of reasons but one of them is that I get to meet people from all around the world. A few weeks ago I met a student from Mexico who broadened my understanding of the Day of the Dead.
Diego spoke very movingly of what the holiday meant to him and how sorry he was to be so far from home at this time of year. (I have to admit that my previous understanding probably was limited to a Disney-Pixar ‘Coco’ level.) He explained the complex origins of the celebration and the way most people understand it now.
What struck me was the way tangible displays of love are evoked: preparing deceased relatives’ favourite foods, taking out their photos and taking time to share memories. It’s a time of gratitude and connection and love.
Autumn is generally a time of year when people are more willing to think about death, maybe because of the cues in nature all around us and remembering those who have died in war. But most of the year we would do anything to avoid the topic.
The cross is an awkward reminder that following Jesus includes not always taking the easy path, but that we are called to deny ourselves and to give up our lives- not for a cause, but out of love. It would be ridiculous to choose to suffer for any other reason but love, and this is the reason that Jesus chose to face death – out of love for his father and love for us.
This last 18 months or so I have been part of a team bringing a new vision to life. Chapel House is a new Christian community house for 8 University students who have promised to pray together, serve together and share meals together for the next year.
It is an extraordinary, diverse, and brave group of people who have embarked on this year-long adventure together. They are working out for themselves how together they can be open to God, open to each other and open to the world and the signs are good that this might be a life-changing experience for them.
Almost by accident, this project was launched with a poignant moment. We had in our home a very large hand-carved cross (more of that story here) that we wanted to transport to the new community house. I could find no vehicle long enough to carry it the couple of miles it needed to travel. So the first thing the community did was carry it themselves, through the streets of Bath.
They have chosen this life, this carrying-of-the cross, out of love. They want to grow in understanding what it means to share lives together. If the community is a success, they will discover new things about themselves and also how hard it can be to sometimes give up their own preferences for the sake of others. But by really engaging in this shared orientation of their lives, I believe the world can be changed and new life will rise.