Almost every day over the last 4 years, at some point in the day, I walk past this section of windows on my way to or from the Lady Chapel. The first window there (or the last, depending on how you look at it) is of St. Augustine of Hippo, whose feast we will celebrate fairly soon, on the 28th, and without whom Christianity would not be as fleshed out, as philosophically rigorous, as it is. I rarely look at the figure of Augustine as I walk by, though he’s pretty awesome with his bishop’s accoutrements, a gorgeous chalice, and being served, presumably at the altar, by both acolytes and angels. What I do see daily, however, is the bottom of that window, the part that swings open or closed, depending on the weather. That section of window tells us that St. Augustine, in all his glory, was given in memory of one Mary Hall Pennock, who died on September 13, 1931. I couldn’t find much information on Mary herself, but it seems that the Pennock family is still around and has been around since before the Revolution, the Pennocks being friends with the Kirkbrides.
Anyway, under Mary’s name on the window is a quote from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, it says “Let us walk honestly as in the day.” I don’t know why Mary’s family so identified Mary with that passage that those words are associated with her forever, but it is a lovely sentiment. One assumes that Mary walked honestly, she bore herself in such a manner that even if darkness was to provide her cover, she would be honest and true, as in the light of day.
Evidently, St. Paul thought that the Romans could stand to be reminded of how to walk through life, and Paul didn’t stop with the Church in Rome. To the Church in Ephesus, Paul wrote “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians four or five years after he wrote his letter to the Romans, and note that in that time Paul became even more concerned with the behavior of Christians, admonishing the Ephesians to not only be wary of the scandals of the night, but to make the most of all the time given to us, even the day.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” Those days were evil, no doubt about it. Paul found that, in his travels, that though he was a Roman citizen, he was not free from harassment; Paul, it seems, didn’t go more than a couple days without being tossed about by man or nature. He found that whether it be day or night, the waves were just as powerful, the bandits just as brazen, the prison bars just as cold. Averting your eyes from the horrors of living in the first century did you know good, as your eyes usually just rested on other horrors.
I wonder what Paul would think of life nowadays. I suspect that he would find our days just as evil, if a little whitewashed. He might find life in America to be a bit posh for his tastes, our people a bit soft. He might find our bickering over the littlest of things to be the byproduct of days spent not needing to do much else but bicker. He would definitely find that most of world is no more concerned for the sanctity of life now than in his own time. Most depressing, perhaps for Paul, is that he would find Palestine much the way he left it two-thousand years ago.
Our predicament, which hasn’t changed since the days of Paul, is that it is all to easy, given the time on our hands, to choose the lesser, to choose to not care, to choose to separate ourselves from the world by means of drink or drugs or food or work, to choose evil.
Christians, though, are to walk honestly as in the day, like Mary Hall Pennock back there; Christians are to make the most of our time, discerning the will of God in all things, purposefully filling our time with good things, filling our days with worship, with good works, with each other. Remember, Christians, that the opposite of evil is not good; the opposite of evil is love. Mary Hall Pennock’s St. Augustine wrote “What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.” Living the Gospel, living in the good news of God in Christ Jesus, means that though our days are evil, we need not be; it means that though we are surrounded by the evils of this world, we have the means of pushing back the darkness. We have the means because we know that the opposite of evil is love, and the greatest love ever known is Jesus.