The Rev. Dr. Han van den Blink
St. Paul’s Church, Troy
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.
On a cold and snowy day in early February, 2003, I officiated and preached at the funeral of tante Wieck, a much loved aunt (tante in Dutch) of mine who had lived all her life in Woerden, a small city in the Netherlands. She was my mother’s younger sister and had been like a second mother to me. I told the many people who had gathered at the Uitvaart Centrum (funeral home) that morning to pay their final respects that the three words that best summed her up were hospitality, love, and generosity of spirit.
The very act of describing tante Wieck in this way helped me understand something of which I had been vaguely aware during her lifetime but had never seen so clearly before, namely her deeper, spiritual side. I went on to say that in order to see that part of her, I had to take off my modern glasses, the glasses that I usually wear and that only let me believe in things that can be proven through the senses, through reason, or through science.
It is not easy to take off these modern glasses because, like many of us, I am usually not even aware that I have them on. But I had help, and the help came from a 14th century Greek monk of Mount Athos who later became a bishop of Thessaloniki. His name was Gregory Palamas and he lived from 1296-1359.
St. Palamas was once asked how it is possible for mortal creatures like ourselves to experience God directly, when God, who is uncreated, eternal and utterly transcendent, surpasses all human knowing and comprehending. The answer St. Palamas gave so long ago helped me understand the spiritual side of tante Wieck better.
to be continued