The day after . . . again

I learned at church yesterday morning of the horrific massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando during the early hours of Sunday morning. I had a new blog post queued up as usual for this morning, but bumped it to tomorrow. I am saddened and disheartened this morning in the wake of what tragically is the latest in a never-ending string of violent events. Three and a half years ago, upon hearing about the massacre at Newtown Elementary, I briefly reflected on what my reaction as a person of faith should be to such a tragedy. I’m still wondering that again today.

At Providence College’s annual Advent lessons and carols service two weeks ago, the choirs opened with a beautiful Advent hymn that doesn’t happen to be in our hymnbook.

O come, divine Messiah!
The world in silence waits the day
When hope shall sing its triumph,
And sadness flee away

Dear Savior haste;
Come, come to earth,
Dispel the night and show your face,
And bid us hail the dawn of grace.

This hymn unexpectedly popped into my consciousness this afternoon when I heard the news of the mass murder of young children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. Who doesn’t want sadness to flee away? Who doesn’t want to see the dawn of grace that will drive away the night? But when the sadness is palpable, when the night is especially dark, what hope can a song offer? More importantly, in the midst of Advent, do we have any reason to believe that what we hope for—a divine presence in the midst of human sadness and darkness—is anything more than a fairy tale we repeat regularly in order to convince ourselves that there is a glimmer of meaning in a horribly dark world?

I don’t know. There are days, and today is one of them, when my Christian faith seems little more than whistling in the dark. But I do know that the divine response to human frailty is not a “problem-solving response.” It’s something much more mysterious, much stranger—and may seem frustratingly impotent when we want “somebody to do something.” The last verse of the hymn captures it: 

You come in peace and meekness,
And lowly will your cradle be;
All clothed in human weakness
Shall we your Godhead see.

As we hope for, pray for, and demand answers and solutions, it’s good to remember that answers and solutions are wrapped in human weakness just as God was, and they begin from the inside out. They begin from where we believe the divine resides into the world that badly needs help.

8 thoughts on “The day after . . . again

  1. David Kennedy

    We shouldn’t be appalled that God let this happen; we should be appalled that it happened! Instead, it is God who will get us through it! God bless all of them who left us much too soon; may they all reap the benefits of whatever is next. And to those left behind, may they seek and get their strength from the Almighty One who will get them through it! dk

  2. Justin

    I was struck today by once again everyone clamoring to figure out what to do after such a horrific tragedy. I then thought of the fact that in a few weeks, when this is out of the news cycle, most everyone will have “moved on” and forgotten about the tragedy. That of course makes me angry for what does that leave those families of victims who will experience the holidays and every day after without their child or loved one? What can they say to themselves and to each other to not go insane at the senselessness?

    I also find myself struggling with the feeling of inadequacy in my faith in light of such an event. It is all well and good to say you believe when everything is fine, but when you are smacked in the face by events like those in CT, how can you not question faith? I like what you say though, that working from the inside out is where answers will come. They will come not in ways that we are anticipating, but they will come if we as humans continue to search inside ourselves for stronger faith and fortitude while at the same time realizing we don’t have all the answers. Sometimes it has to be enough to not be sure.

    I pray for inner peace for these families and friends of the victims. They are most in need of those prayers and that peace. Furthermore, I pray for peace for the family of the shooter. I think it is often forgotten that those closest to the perpetrator are also suffering with not only loss, but incredible guilt as well. I know most people will eventually forget these families, but I know God will not. In knowing that, I find renewed strength in my faith.

  3. Paola

    On a terrible day when all I could think was that these children were my daughter’s age (5 years old) , and was forced to start with her a conversation about what to do if she ever sees an unknown man with a gun at her school or anywhere else, your post brought a bit of solace in the midst of horror. Thanks!

  4. The Rev. Marsue Harris

    Thank you for the Advent hymn. It shall be the opening of my Christmas Eve sermon, chanted by the Music Director. Surprise! everyone who comes out twice a year for church expecting only to be happy and glad having skipped over the hard parts of Advent and Easter.

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