We Mourn with Sutherland Springs

He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.” Aeschylus, from Agamemnon

Less than a week ago a terrorist mowed down eight people on a bike path in lower Manhattan. Five of the victims were friends from Argentina who were in New York to celebrate a reunion. A day later, a man walked into a suburban Denver Walmart and randomly shot three people. His victims included a beloved grandfather, a grandmother with “a contagious smile", and a young father with another child on the way.

And, now Sutherland Springs. At least 26 killed, and 20 injured. Among those killed was the daughter of the church’s pastor. All gunned down in church on a Sunday morning by a single, military-trained gunman dressed in black tactical gear, wearing a ballistic vest, and armed with automatic weapons.

Perhaps we have run out of words to respond to such news. Thoughts and prayers that might once have offered comfort now seem like hollow, slender reeds upon which to lean. Of course, we will pray for the victims, for our loved ones, our country, and ourselves. We will look for words of comfort in Scripture, and we will find them. But, at some point, is not more required of us?

Aeschylus is considered the “father” of Greek tragedy. The quote above is from his famous play, Agamemnon, written and first performed in 458 B.C.E. You may have run across it in a high school or college literature class, but many remember it from a speech given by Robert Kennedy in Indianapolis the night Martin Luther King was shot and killed.

There are various translations of Aeschylus, and the one used above is from Edith Hamilton, and is considered one of the most poetic. As I watched the news yesterday from Texas, it was the words “pain which cannot forget” that filled my mind. The pain is close, and real, and present. The wisdom, and the grace that leads us to it, seem far away, and distant, and in a future that is difficult to see. At the close of his speech in Indianapolis that night in April, 1968, Kennedy returned to Aeschylus and said, “Let us dedicate ourselves to what the ancient Greeks wrote so many years ago, to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that."

McCormick invites you all to join us at a gathering of reflection on Wednesday, Nov. 8 at 5:00 p.m. outside the Common Room. Please come not only to pray, but to share our own thoughts on how we might, together, harness the hope, and love, and wisdom necessary to end this senseless violence.

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