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By David Duggan
November 27, 2022

Today is my 71st birthday but it also is my entrance into my 72nd year. Both numbers are significant. Seventy-one is a prime number, divisible by only itself and 1, and this is my first "prime" birthday since turning 67. Seventy-two is a rarity of rarities: the only number below 100 that is the product of a square (9) and a cube (8). The next such event would be if and when I turn 108 (4 x 27). That may not be likely. Seventy-two also has the greatest number of even divisors of any number below 100: 10 (2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 12, 18, 24 and 36; alright, it is tied with 84 and 96 for that distinction).

Seventy-two is also the number of disciples that Jesus sent out to be His "advance men" for His visits to towns throughout Judea. Luke 10: 1-20. Curiously, Mark (6: 7-13) and Matthew (10:1-20) have Jesus sending out only the 12, and it is not clear from the text whether these are separate or the same event. In each, the Disciples are to travel 2 by 2, and in each they were to stay at invited lodgings, and not at any inn. In each they were to call people to repentance and heal the sick. And in each, if they were not welcome they were to shake the dust off their feet and move on. John is utterly silent on this.

The itinerant life has not been for me, and I have recently celebrated one-third of a century living at the same address. This permanence has had its advantages: I know where I will go in the morning, and where I will lie in the evening. In between I have the luxury of reading, doing puzzles and when the spirit moves, me to write essays. I am grateful for the feedback I have received over the years for that which I have written, sometimes years later. One scholar noted that the advantage of a life of contemplation is the subtlety of a dream deferred. My long-ago dreams of professional recognition and material comfort have been replaced by an understanding that it is not by any of my achievements that life has been worth the fight. It is by what comfort or insight I have imparted to others.

Today is also the first Sunday of Advent (the coincidence happens about every 7 years, another numerical feature), and I suppose like any kid, Advent was one of my favorite seasons: calendars to open daily to reveal some event that heralded Our Lord's second coming, prayers that I early-on committed to memory, including the incomparable "Stir up, we beseech Thee O Lord the wills of thy faithful people that they plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works may by Thee be plenteously rewarded." Expressing both our own willful role in ushering in God's kingdom on earth, and our hope for a reward for our devotion, this prayer encapsulates the faith: that our fruit be the food of eternal life in Christ.

"Lo, He comes on clouds descending" sounds the hymn appointed for this day. "Once for our salvation slain." When "every eye shall now behold Him, robed in dreadful majesty," we shall see Him face-to-face, and not as a stranger, but as One who trod our path and returned again.

David Duggan is a retired attorney living in Chicago. He is an active Anglican and frequent contributor to Virtueonline

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