Saturday, December 15, 2012

Protection and Shield


The sign of the Cross is a confession of faith: I believe in him who suffered for me and rose again; in him who has transformed the sign of shame into a sign of hope and of the love of God that is present with us. The confession of faith is a confession of hope: I believe in him who in his weakness is the Almighty; in him who can and will save me even in apparent absence and impotence.
 
By signing ourselves with the Cross, we place ourselves under the protection of the Cross, hold it in front of us like a shield that will guard us in all the distress of daily life and give us the courage to go on… The Cross shows us the road of life—the imitation of Christ.
Spirit of the Liturgy, 177-8
 
Reflection – I write this realizing that many of my readers, particularly in the States, have been saturated this past day with media coverage of the tragic school shooting in Newtown CT, the brutal slaying of 22 children and six of their teachers by a disturbed young man. In MH we had a silent day of recollection and prayer yesterday, and so only heard of this terrible event at supper. We don’t really have TV here, and limited internet access, and so are somewhat insulated from the incessant over-stimulation of horrific images and morass of painful details that accompany this kind of event; nonetheless we are all mindful of the grief and horror that many are carrying today.
 
It is a sign of the Cross kind of day. Time to confess our faith in this one who came to plunge precisely into the world’s madness and horror. Time to confess our faith precisely in the one who came to be a victim with the victims, who saved the whole human race and renewed the cosmos precisely by embracing the helplessness and seeming futility of a random violent death.
 
It is the sign of the Cross we need to turn to, the Cross we need to cling to, the reality, the fact of God’s love and presence penetrating to the very heart of darkness, descending to the very bowels of hell, bringing into the worst of our humanity the best of his divinity.
 
Coming right before Christmas lends this tragedy in Connecticut a particular poignancy, a particular shade of sadness. Some will say, understandably, that Christmas will simply not happen in that town this year.
 
Of course it will not be a ‘merry’ Christmas there, with parties and laughter and fun. But I do hope Christmas happens there, nonetheless. It is for this that Jesus was born into the world, that God became that little baby, that child, that helpless one. To save all the children, the babies, the helpless ones, the victims, all those who are run over, crushed, swept away by the tides of life and the evils of man. He came to open a door to something else, to another way of living, another place where such things cannot happen.
 
It is no accident that the feast of the Holy Innocents comes right on the heels of Christmas. In every century, every age, in every nation across the earth innocents have been slaughtered by ruthless and twisted men. The blood of the innocents cries out from the ends of the earth.
 
God came to save them, and to save us who may not be quite so innocent, but who cry out, too. And he saves them and us by becoming one of us, by entering into the passion of the innocent, by enduring the same hatred and violence and horror they endure. And this is our hope, and our saving grace.
 
So we pray for the poor people convulsed with grief and terror in this little town in New England. We pray for the dead, for their eternal rest and peace with God. We pray, yes, for this poor twisted young man who did this terrible act, for God’s mercy upon him. And we pray for our world, that all of us may turn to the Crucified One more deeply, more firmly, more absolutely, and allow his love and his mercy flowing from the Cross to wash over us, to penetrate us, to transform us, to become our own source of life and the pattern of our own actions, thoughts, words, being. To imitate him, and so be his love in our broken world.
 
It is a sign of the Cross kind of day.