Fires in the west. Back when I lived on the east coast or during the twenty-three years I lived in Houston, hearing about the fires in the west would provoke a momentary ‘ How awful’ but since I was far away, within seconds the horrors of distant folks were replaced by more pressing matters affecting me or my family.
Such is the way of things.
But after thirteen years of living in the high desert, I have come to know the perils of drought, high temperatures and the horrors of wildfires in an up close and very personal way. Last month, when the four firefighters in Washington were overcome and killed by one of the thirteen or fourteen fires burning in remote eastern Washington, sadness and despair seemed to pour from the Governor when he attempted to ‘make a statement’ for the television cameras.
And now we have a conflagration in northern California with the fire ‘season’ not even here yet.
Today is the Triumph of the Cross in the Christian liturgy. Despite now nineteen years as a Christian Catholic, suffering, evil and death remain a mystery. Notwithstanding prayer, study and writing about this subject, I feel no closer to unwrapping the inscrutability of God’s primary message: Pick up your cross to follow me.
Last night, my husband told me the story of a man who has the only remaining house in a burned out neighborhood somewhere in northern California. The man explained that he was begging to God that this house be built with his own two hands be saved. And heard, “Then fight for it.” The unknown man did just that. He bought twenty Home Depot buckets, filled them with water and doused his house over and over, bucket by bucket. All night long. Last year when we had a serious water problem, I filled two of those buckets and carried them down to the plants I was most concerned about. And did so three, maybe four times. I was exhausted by the effort,
The man who somehow found the strength to fight for his home all night long stands amidst the ashes of his former neighborhood to show his house, untouched by the fire.
While praying the Divine Office this morning, I read a partial reading from St. Andrew of Crete, one of the patron saints of the Greek Orthodox Church.
The cross is something great and honorable…because it is both the sign of God’s suffering and trophy of his victory…it was the means by which the devil wounded and death conquered; the barred gates of hell were smashed, and the cross became the one common salvation of the whole world…quoting Christ the saint writes, .Now is the Son of Man glorified…Father, glorify me with the glory I had with you before the world came to be…when I am lifted up, then I will draw all men to myself.