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.