In a world obsessed with the body, old age saves us from the artificial myth of eternal youth. Wrinkles are a sign of life, of having made a journey, says Pope.
Pope Francis today praised the attitude of an Italian actress who was asked to remove her wrinkles. “No, don’t touch them!” she replied. “It took so many years to have them – don’t touch them!”
“This is what wrinkles are: a sign of experience, a sign of life, a sign of maturity, a sign of having made a journey,” the Pope said. “Do not touch them to become young, that your face might look young. What matters is the entire personality; it’s the heart that matters, and the heart remains with the youth of good wine – the more it ages the better it is.”
The Holy Father said that the elderly have a particular mission. Drawing from the conversation of Nicodemus and Jesus, he noted that being old is not an obstacle to this being “born from above” that Jesus speaks of. Old age is rather the opportune time to illuminate this call.
The Pope reflected on how our culture is so obsessed with the idea of an “incorruptible body” and the “myth of eternal youth,” with “cosmetics which slow down, hide, or erase old age.”
“Why is old age not appreciated in so many ways? Because it bears the undeniable evidence of the end of this myth,” he said.
We are confused between rightfully seeking health and feeding this myth of eternal youth. “Everything is done to always have this youth – so much make-up, so many surgical interventions to appear young.”
The elderly are moving forward
In this context, it’s the elderly that remind us that in fact, life down here is an initiation. It’s just the beginning, not the fulfillment.
“Life in our mortal flesh is a beautiful ‘unfinished’ reality, like certain works of art that exert a unique fascination precisely due to their incompleteness. … Life in our mortal flesh is too small a space and time to keep it intact and to bring to fulfillment in the world’s time the most precious part of our existence. … The elderly person moves ahead; the elderly person journeys toward the final destination, towards God’s heaven; the elderly person journeys with the wisdom of lived experience.”
Old age is for many people the time when this being born from above is embraced. “It does not communicate a nostalgia for a birth in time, but of a love for our final destination. In this perspective, old age has a unique beauty – we are journeying toward the Eternal.”
It would be sad, even if it were possible
To try to go back to youth would not be wisdom. It would be “artificial,” the Pope said. “That would be sad, even if it were possible.”
May the Spirit grant us the re-opening of this spiritual – and cultural – mission of old age that reconciles us with the birth from above. When we think of old age like this, we can say – why has this throw-away culture decided to throw out the elderly, considering them useless? The elderly are the messengers of the future, the elderly are the messengers of tenderness, the elderly are the messengers of the wisdom of lived experience. Let us move forward and watch the elderly.