Mourning and Weeping in this Vale of Facts

Mourning and Weeping in this Vale of Facts

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At mass one Sunday, the choir sung the 1920s hymn “O Christ the Same”, which is memorable because it was also sung to the tune of “Danny Boy”. It was also memorable for its last last stanza, the first line of which read

O Christ the same, secure within whose keeping/ Our lives and loves, our days and years remain…

This line made me choke for a second, for it demonstrated an intuition that I realised had become muted in my own experience. At one level, the line demonstrated the confidence of leaving control of one’s own circumstances over to the rightful Lord of those circumstances. It counters the tendency that I have exhibited in my goings out and comings in, namely the tendency to treat myself as the lord of my circumstances.

At another level, this line from “O Christ the Same” was a reminder that my circumstances are not circumscribed by what others might call “the facts of life”. By this I mean the facts that were self-contained, self-sufficient and self-evident, presenting themselves with sheer empirical force, the final word on my hopes and desires. If they were indeed the final word, the facts would present a reality that is depressing, morose and devoid of hope.

Instead, “O Christ the Same” reminded me that the facts are not self-sufficient. It reminded me that my desire to get behind – and beyond – the limitations of the raw data of facts is not the foolish dream of a teenager who refuses to grow up. It is a desire affirmed by the Christian tradition, even if I also do not want to engage in a juvenile escape from the facts of life.

This was touched upon by Fr Julian Carron, the leader of the ecclesial Communion and Liberation. In his reflection, “A Leap of Self-Awareness“, given at a gathering for the leaders of CL, Carron spoke of the need to not escape from reality, but to let it provoke us.

When we lean into reality, including all that shakes and disturbs us we can, in Carron’s words “recognise the Other who is at work” behind the facts of these circumstances.

Carron invites to, whilst standing within the swirl of facts generated by our circumstances, to “consider the works of the Lord”, even when the facts seem to have declared the final word, that works of the Lord have ceased.

And so, we pray not only for the courage to walk the vale of facts, but also for the eyes that see and recognise these facts and the workings of the divine word hidden within their structures. For it is a divine word that will eventually transform and transcend them when their brutality seems to weigh in upon us, and it is a word that also, to borrow from the words of O Christ the Same, remains the same when the facts of the world eventually fade and flee.

…and there, but for the grace of God, go we…

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