"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Grief and Prayer

I have been unable to post for several days while the U.S. writes another tragedy in the blood of this endlessly suffering people. Henri Nouwen reminds us that grief is a way to compassion, and grief has seized my heart in these last few days, as I sit helplessly while those acting in my name carry out a slaughter that is not only immoral, but ultimately inane. Already it is clear that the effect of this manuver has been to spark rebellions in dozens of other cities, to create a potent symbol and rallying cry for those fighting for their country.

As Americans, we often stigmatize grief as weakness. The strong should shake off grief and carry on with the battle, our culture shouts at us. But shaking off grief is often the refusal of a precious gift. In the words of Henri Nouwen, "Grief asks me to allow the sins of the world - my own included - to pierce my heart and make me shed tears, many tears, for them. There is no compassion without many tears. If they can't be tears that stream from my eyes, they have to be at least tears that well up from my heart. When I consider the immense waywardness of God's children, our lust, our greed, our violence, our anger, our resentment, and when I look at them through the eyes of God's heart, I cannot but weep and cry out with grief...This grieving is praying. There are so few mourners left in this world. But grief is the discipline of the heart that sees the sin of the world, and knows itself to be the sorrowful price of freedom without which love cannot bloom. I am beginning to see that much of praying is grieving. This grief is so deep not just because the human sin is so great, but also - and more so - because the divine love is so boundless." - Nouwen, Henri. The Return of the Prodigal Son. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

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