As darkness and sorrow grow

We are living in a time of sorrow. Italy and several other countries are being ravaged by the Coronavirus and people are living in fear. Many parts of the United States are only now taking strong measures, and there still persist much denial and irresponsible behavior. I pray that the actions being taken now will prove sufficient. But we may be only at the start of what could be a very trying time for us, and indeed a time of sorrow. Take care, be well, and be careful, be very careful about contact with others. It is a horrible thing to be deprived of human contact when we most need it, but we must be patient and endure.

The late Brother Roger was the founder of the ecumenical monastic community of Taizé in France and a man of deep spiritual insight. The icon which I have placed here graces the cover of one of his books, Parable of Community, translated into English in 1980. From this book I chose one of the prayers that I find appropriate for our times. It is a beautiful prayer and it does not shy away from our fears or even the possible wound we can receive from helping our neighbor. But the final line belongs to the touch of Jesus, which never wounds but always heals and comforts. As darkness and sorrow grow we need the touch of Jesus more than ever in our lifetimes. Observe how in the icon Christ’s right hand is draped over the far shoulder of Saint Abbot Menas, an Egyptian monk of the 6th century. And let’s always remember in our prayers those in the helping and medical professions who are on the front lines of the war against the Coronavirus. They place their hands in the wounds of this virus and take the greatest risks!

A 6h century Coptic icon from Egypt of Christ with Abba Menas. Christ’s right hand is on the far shoulder of Menas. An image of friendship and healing touch that it rare in iconography, but how meaningful to us today.

BROTHER ROGER’S PRAYER

Breath of Christ's loving,
flood over all who experience fears or little
deaths; breathe your resurrection
into our very minds, our very flesh.
Happy are they who take the greatest of all
risks and live a passover with Christ.
Yes, keeping close to you,
Jesus our joy,
in your agony for us all
and also in your resurrection.
Happy whoever tears his hand from his eyes
and no longer calls upon his darkness
to cover his refusal.
O Christ, you know that,
without intending to,
when we touch our neighbour
we sometimes wound.
While your touch never wounds
and tirelessly you remind us:
'Don't be afraid; I am here.'

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