Today with all mothers I am attempting to string together words but the words are all gasped out of me. What can we do but groan, breathe heavy prayer-breaths, hug our own? Words fail, silence is all we can offer now. I consider leaving this entire space blank, in honor of twenty empty beds tonight and twenty mothers leaving their child’s school yesterday with empty arms; for the empty spaces tonight in every mother lying awake and staring into the gaping chasm of evil in the world.
Yesterday morning at a little after nine I was pouring cereal. I remember because I had glanced at the clock then, thinking what a late start we were getting to the day. We were late because before breakfast I spread paints out on the table, hoping to finally finish a family Christmas project we’d been working on, it had been propped behind a chair for weeks.
At about ten after nine, as horror not yet imagined was taking place, I added the final touch to the canvas- a white star hovering above the stable.
We hung the painting on the wall, above the piano where today our daughter practices Ode to Joy. Above the twinkling lights of Christmas; the center of the room, where we automatically look. And at the center of the canvas, where the eye lingers, is the star, this small white space, shining against the dark.
Mothers, we are called to hope. It is all we have.
The world did not become darker yesterday, it has always been dark. One twenty year old man dressed in black blew to pieces our facade of safety, and in it’s heartbreaking wake we cry out along with this sad old world and its chasm of horrors, the groaning of the centuries, Come, Lord Jesus.
“O Come O Come Emmanuel . . .
we mourn in lonely exile here”.
And still, somehow, impossibly, there is Christmas. There are seven year old girls learning to play Beethoven, and mothers serving breakfast in warm kitchens, and people gathering together. My dear friend had a baby boy last night. We weep. We rejoice. There is no sense to be made of it.
We are called to hope not fear. We are called to the sacredness of everyday life and the gravity that everything we do matters. We are called to the impossibility of faith, hope, and love, and to stake our lives on it.
To live a life of hope is to arm our children not with weapons but with music. With stories and love, and with the glitter-eyed wonder at the beauty in the world. They, in turn, restore our childlike faith.
These spaces we cling to are not empty, they shine. It is not naivete to choose to see the good, but stubbornness and courage and the impossible strength of Love.
The world is dark. But we will look in the direction of the light that still shines in the darkness.
On the darkest nights we will hang that light above the mantle and in the corners and shine it from every window. We will wrap light around the landscaping and the posts of our house and on our gates, we will bind light to our hands and our foreheads and stitch it inside the coats of our children. We will anoint them with light at every bath time, we will serve it to them with their cut-up pot roast, and nuzzle it into their ears and recite it until our own hearts pound with light.
We will speak to one another of the light, and when you are lying so low that you cannot rise up I will lie down with you, and together in dust and desolation we will search the sky until eventually, incredibly, one night, we will again find the light.
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
Where children pure and happy pray to the blessèd Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.