A Reflection on Light and Hope
By the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones
LGBT Pride Interfaith Service of Remembrance
Epworth United Methodist Church, Oklahoma City, OK
16 June 2010
One of my favourite poets is Czeslaw Milosz. As a twentieth-century Pole, he was well acquainted with some of the greatest horrors that humankind has ever afflicted upon other humans. Milosz witnessed tragedy of the highest order and grasped the reality of the catastrophic.
Yet, he is no pessimist, no cynic, no skeptic. While his poetry never shies from the horrific, it also expresses possibility, future, hope. Hear now this poem, beautifully entitled “Recovery”:
“Here I am—why this senseless fear?
The night is over, the day will soon arise.
You hear. The shepherds’ horns already sound,
And stars grow pale over the rosy glow.
“The path is straight. We are at the edge.
Down in the village the little bell chimes.
Roosters on the fences greet the light
And the earth steams, fertile and happy.
“Here it is still dark. Fog like a river flood
Swaddles the black clumps of bilberries.
But the dawn on bright stilts wades in from the shore
And the ball of the sun, ringing, rolls.”
It is a cliché that it is always darkest before the dawn, but without succumbing to cliché, Milosz reminds us of a genuine human experience.
Death is an actuality. As are the emotions it engenders in us as a response – grief, anger, fear, melancholy, bitterness, despair. Often the depth of our grief is itself a reminder of how good was the relationship we lost—grief’s depth is evidence of joy’s height.
All of the world’s faiths come to terms with the actuality of death. For example: Buddhism reminds us of the reality of suffering. Christianity places a symbol of torture at the center of its faith. Judaism, over centuries of suffering oppression, has developed powerfully beautiful rituals in response.
It is not as easy as “get over it.” Every religion understands the difficult spiritual journey of dealing with death. Our faiths and spiritualities hold out the promise that the fear of our own death can be overcome. That the grief over another’s loss can be comforted. That we can be liberated from the power that death holds over us.
Yes, death, suffering, and grief are actual. But our faiths remind us so too are love, joy, adventure, truth, good, and beauty.
By fashioning community and living with spiritual courage, we can develop the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the hands to touch possibility, future, and light. And that is what it means to hope.
The dawn on bright stilts wades in from the shore
And the ball of the sun, ringing, rolls.