“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
— J.R.R. Tolkien
The news is terrible, disheartening, troubling, horrific -choose your adjective; my still-looking-for-a-job Elder Son used the word “shell-shocked” last night, in reference to the troubling news he was reading, and I noted that “shell-shocked” is a phrase I am seeing a lot in my email, where people feel like the whole nation is being “stress-tested.”
People are feeling “shell-shocked” by the national news, the international news; the secular news, the church news. There are experts who are shocked every week by what they do not know. There are Wikileaks and responses. There is war. There is condescension, there are venal truths and venal distortions. There are the sick, and the injured and the much sinned against, and the physically and spiritually trapped, who need prayer, attention, help.
Spend a half-hour reading the headlines and you emerge blinking and dazed. When you are dazed, it is easy to be blind-sided, to make a misstep, and fall into cynicism or worse, despair.
I am right there with you, gang, stumbling around, trying to process all of this information, gleaning bits of wheat where they drop amid all the chaff. The pickings seem very slim right now, and thoroughly mixed in with the choking weeds. To one in a dazed state, they are very easy to miss.
Last night, I admit, I slipped into a bit of despair. Awoke this morning with this running through my head, as it has before:
“Everything” is about nothing.
Everything ended with the sacrifice of the Lamb.
All is consummated.
We are forever and always at the Last Supper, at the Crucifixion, at the Resurrection.
Time ended with the tearing of the veil and the rolling back of the stone.
The rest is illusion and catching up.
There is nothing to be afraid of.
“There is nothing to be afraid of.” I believe it.
And yet, even after praying the Divine Office, which is always my wellspring, even after my beloved Office of Readings and the Morning Prayer, I needed more. I needed new words.
Thankfully, after the readings for mass, I them in the endlessly useful resource that is Magnificat Magazine
The Third Day
The immovable stone tossed aside,
The collapsed linens,
The blinding angel and the chalky guards:All today like an old wood-cut.
The earthquake on the third day,
The awakened sleeper,
The ubiquitous stranger, gardener, fisherman:
Faded frescoes from a buried world.
Retell, renew the event
In these planetary years,
For we were there and he is here:
It is always the third day.
Our world-prison is split;
An elder charity
Breaks through these modern fates.
Publish it by Telstar,
Diffuse it by mundovision.
He passes through the shattered concrete slabs,
The vaporized vanadium vaults,
The twisted barbed-wire trestles.
A charity coeval with the suns
Dispels the deep obsessions of the age
And opens heart-room in our sterile dream:
A new space within space to celebrate
With mobiles and new choreographies,
A new time within time to set to music.
— Amos Niven Wilder
(NT Scholar and brother of Thornton Wilder)
It is still Easter, after all, and we are still peering into the empty tomb, and trying to comprehend.