Soul Tending on Passion Week


Blessing in a Time of Violence 
– Jan Richardson

Which is to say
this blessing
is always.

Which is to say
there is no place
this blessing
does not long
to cry out
in lament,
to weep its words
in sorrow,
to scream its lines
in sacred rage.

Which is to say
there is no day
this blessing ceases
to whisper
into the ear
of the dying,
the despairing,
the terrified.

Which is to say
there is no moment
this blessing refuses
to sing itself
into the heart
of the hated
and the hateful,
the victim
and the victimizer,
with every last
ounce of hope
it has.

Which is to say
there is none
that can stop it,
none that can
halt its course,
none that will
still its cadence,
none that will
delay its rising,
none that can keep it
from springing forth
from the mouths of us
who hope,
from the hands of us
who act,
from the hearts of us
who love,
from the feet of us
who will not cease
our stubborn, aching
marching, marching

until this blessing
has spoken
its final word,
until this blessing
has breathed
its benediction
in every place,
in every tongue:

Peace.
Peace.
Peace.

I was reminded of this Christian Holy Week as I drove up to the mountains yesterday. A procession of forlorn crosses dotted the landscape along the side of the road. They marked the sites where someone had died in a traffic related accident. Shrines, processions, icons, crosses are all very reminiscent of the Spanish and Catholic landscape here in New Mexico.

I remembered that it was the week where many devoted pilgrims would take to the roadways, walking for days. With vehicles whizzing past on the highways, there would be the faithful, slowly trudging along the spare roadside, their simple packs with water in tow. They would be praying with each step, traversing the stations of the cross with Jesus in their imaginations, on his death march. Their final destiny would be Good Friday at the hallowed sites of Tomé Hill in the south and Chimayo in the north.

One year I did this walk. Oh, mine was abridged, much shorter. I parked 10 miles out and walked in the brilliant New Mexico sun with hundreds upon hundreds of others. After a day of walking in the heat and dust, it was a powerful moment to see the Sanctuario de Chimayo, finally arising out of the baked red earth and curving hips of the foothills. I went alone. I had no idea how I would get back to my car. I needn’t have worried. I was easily able to hitch a trip on the bed of someone’s pickup, along with a sea of other tired faces. The sun was beginning to set.

Somehow, embarking on a journey with strangers, walking the Via Dolorosa—the way of sorrows and suffering— bound us together. Water and food was shared, we walked for a time sharing our stories and then continued on our separate ways.

As my pastor Erica Lea-Simka writes,

This April is especially holy for most people in the world- for the first time in 30 years, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Baha’is, Hindus, Buddhists, and Indigenous nations will celebrate Ramadan, Passover, Easter, Vaisakhi, Mahavir Jayanti, Theravada New Year, and the Gathering of Nations at the same time.

We are one body, one planet, one humanity, bound together, pulsing with spiritual longings, hungers and desires to live peacefully in our communities.

I’m thinking of this Holy Week as an invitation to walk alongside the suffering of my global family. Virtually. As I look upon the grey faces of the Ukrainians these days, their eyes meeting mine with an unspeakable horror, dare I allow myself to walk side by side and take their hand and listen to their story and weep with them?. As each story is raised of women raped, children killed, animals and crops and homes destroyed, let my heart beat with their cries and speak often the words…Lord have Mercy, Christ have mercy. Kyrie Eleison. Christe Eleison.

Can I bear to ride in the tanks with the Russian soldiers who are so traumatized themselves that they will go to inhumane lengths to inflict their suffering, rage and trauma upon the “enemy”?. No, they are not your enemy, friend. They are your country men and women, blood of the same soil that you are now shedding it upon. I will speak often the words…..Lord have Mercy, Christ have mercy. Kyrie Eleison. Christe Eleison.

Pick your country, your people, your place where you are willing to let your breath and the steady shuffle of your steps walk alongside.

Recently my husband and I journeyed to my mother’s homeland, the big state of Texas. We didn’t get to the tip, where her folk hearkened from, but stayed at Alpine Texas, stopped at Marfa, West Texas, an art hub, and spent a day hiking in Big Bend National Park. We gloried in the warm winds and the raptors catching the thermals. I remembered these broad skies and wide open scrub desert land from my childhood.

To get there we had to travel through the Permian Basin in Southeast New Mexico, extending into West Texas. This is the largest shale fossil fuel oil/gas field in the United States, and perhaps the #1 producer in the world at this point.

Here’s from my journal…As we drove the 200+ miles between Artesia New Mexico and Ft. Stockman, Texas, the excruciating crucible began to unfold. At first I found myself throwing around cynical barbs and dark humor about sweet little names like Loving, Texas, entombed in methane gas and man camps . But as we continued to drive I grew silent as the heartbeat of this wild and remote high plain went dead. I began to weep. Small, soft wooly bodies along the roadside—coyote, rabbit, mice, hawks—along oily roadways. I was reminded that these residents were now homeless. And then there was the endless parade of trucks on testosterone—their sameness of size and shades of white broken up only by large mufflers, American flags and the tools of the trade poking out of the truckbeds. The fragile life of the high desert was broken and horrifically burned from endless drought, all the water brazenly piped to the shimmering oil refineries sprouting up in the distance, with fracking pads and pumps as far as the eye could see, methane fires spewing in the gathering darkness. The land had become an industrial wasteland. Daily, the land was raped. Our country’s sacrifice zone for our lifestyles.

Lord have Mercy, Christ have mercy. Kyrie Eleison. Christe Eleison.

Bless us in a time of Violence. Let us bless one another in a time of violence.

6 thoughts on “Soul Tending on Passion Week

  1. So hauntingly written, Anita, and clearly envisioned. . .the trek you made to Texas and the mixture of childhood memories of another time, and the stark beauty of that area, which I, too, have visited and tromped around Big Bend Nat’l Park, Marfa, Alpine, Ft Davis. But then the devastation of the oil and gas fields. I could see you weeping over the death and destruction. And I have just come out of a zoom centering prayer sit with folks here in Boise where we are using Thomas Keating’s writings and being reminded of God in everything! How can that be? And Richard Rohr’s meditation today about loving our enemies but first needing to love ourselves. I appreciate your depth of feeling and sense of things in your writing. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am always blessed.

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    1. Thankyou for taking time to share, Brenda! I’m so glad you’ve found such good spiritual community there in Boise. It’s a precious time for you to be near your Mom and sister. I enjoy your posts:)

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  2. Thank you so much Anita for the Richardson poem–so powerful–and for your artful, soul-stirring reflections.

    Larry

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