Have you ever found yourself in a rut? Ruts are odd things. Sometimes they are good, and sometimes they are not so good. The photograph above shows a not so good rut. The car is stuck in a rut so deep that it is in a ditch. So what is a rut?
In a negative sense, “A rut is a depression or groove worn into a road or path by the travel of wheels or skis. Ruts can be formed by wear, as from studded snow tires common in cold climate areas, or they can form through the deformation of the asphalt concrete pavement or subbase material. Rut-like depressions can be formed on gravel roads by the erosion from flowing water.”
But not all ruts are negative, “Rutting can also be intentional. The ancient Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians and Greeks constructed roads with artificial wheel-ruts deliberately cut into rock. The ruts were spaced apart from each other the same distance as the wheelspan of an ordinary carriage, and thus constituted grooves that guided the carriages on the rutway. Such ancient stone rutways connected major cities with sacred sites, such as Athens to Eleusis, Sparta to Ayklia, or Elis to Olympia. The gauge of these stone grooves was 1.38 to 1.44 m (4 ft 6 in to 4 ft 9 in). The largest number of preserved stone trackways, over 150, are found on Malta.”
In the USA, we often assume that all ruts are negative. We are oriented toward making our own decisions, finding our own road. For us the idea of the “road less traveled,” is much more appealing a saying than the idea of following a set track. Yet, a “rutway” can be the safe guide to a place where God can be worshipped. Thus Holy Tradition can form a rutway that helps us to correctly follow our God. Nevertheless, as the photograph above shows, a rutway can all too easily turn into a deepening path that can lead us to be stuck in a ditch and unable to progress any farther. A positive rutway can keep us on the path to God. Thus, the Liturgical Year, scheduled fasting, regular prayer are all a positive rutway that leads us to everlasting life. But, a negative rutway can all too easily convince us that we are doing what God wants while all we are doing is fulfilling an outward form without the inner spiritual life that leads to true godliness.
Advent is one of those times when we examine ourselves to see whether indeed we are truly following Our Lord Jesus Christ. The readings are designed to call us to self-reflection. Some of them even call us to fear the Final Judgment, lest we should fail it. I know that this Advent, I have found myself wondering whether I have fallen into the wrong sort of rut. It is actually somewhat easy to be a priest, in one sense; it is somewhat difficult to be a priest, in another sense. It is easy to be a priest when one wears vestments, leads the Liturgy, and appears to be a scion of virtue. It is difficult to be a priest when one has to actually live out a life of holiness and dedication.
This Advent, pray for me that I may be found to be a true follower of Christ, who follows the true path to salvation. Pray also for all, that we may all be found to be true followers of Christ.