Oh God, how can we ever understand? This is evil wildly beyond comprehension. Are you the one allowing this? Could you have stopped it?
Could we have?
God, who I believe to be Merciful, who I hope to be Healing: let us know you grieve with us today. Let us feel your tears on our skin, your wailing carried on our wind. Do not, do not be silent today. Nor tomorrow. Do more than hear our screaming. Scream with us, oh God.
Do not leave us alone with our questions. You said, after all, that all who mourn will be accompanied. Accompany us and honor every one of our whys. If our questions cannot be given answers today, help us to love the questions themselves. Help us, in all our thinking and speaking, to repudiate every attempt at easy answers.
Help us, oh God, to face this affliction fully, without turning from the possibility that you are yet love, and we can yet love.
May you surround each adult and child, so tragically departed and those still holding to life, with pure and complete light. May pain flee the body and all anguish fly from the soul. May each victim know himself or herself to be fiercely loved, tenderly held, wholly healed.
May you descend in ways and miracles I cannot imagine on the families whose fabric has been ripped, whose security shattered, whose hearts feel burned to ash. Do not ask us to hold in our anger. While we ultimately hope for the redemption only you can bring about, do not let us speak of such too soon. Would each family today experience nothing but compassion. Would the gross tragedy of their loss be matched by the overwhelming kindness of those near and far. Would Peace arrive, however slowly, and descend upon Newtown: each family, each hospital room, each parent, child, student, teacher, brother, sister.
May you give renewed energy, vigor and strength to all those responding to this tragedy: searching, calling, doctoring, securing, investigating. May each worker be given the grace to accomplish what needs to be accomplished without closing off their grief.
Give us all the grace of grief, knowing that peace comes only within and on the other side.
May we hold renewed appreciation for the importance of mental health care and let go once and for all of the stigma we perpetuate and the sense of superiority we too often rely on. May you raise up counselors, therapists, hospitals, addiction groups, and the loving ears of friends today, oh God: for those in Newtown and all those who need and desire to be heard. Would today’s tragedy open new channels of healing for all those who struggle inside. Would today’s tragedy remind us, again, that violence never heals and renew in us a passion for non-violence.
Oh God, how can we ever understand? How can we live in a world with such darkness, where children are collateral damage to our violence and hatred?
And yet…it is Advent. It is the time when we remember that you HAVE NOT left us alone. That you have come, in a body just as vulnerable to gunshots as the bodies of teachers and children. That you know what it is to be murdered and to grieve those you loved and lost.
Oh God, Oh Christ: remind us today and every day that you, indeed, are our light. And no matter how great the darkness—and the darkness is so great—you are the light who has come to overcome.
You are the light that shines in the darkness.
And the darkness cannot put it out.
(Photo: Natalie Hemmerich, 2012. Used with permission.)