Prayer for Paris and Beyond

Armistice Day, November 11, was a week and a half ago. This holiday originally commemorated the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front in World War I and memorialized the soldiers who died in that conflict, but it has evolved over the years; in America, it is now celebrated as Veterans Day, and in the Commonwealth nations as Remembrance Day. This year I happened to be in Canada on the 11th, and I saw the commemorations and the many, many people wearing red poppy stickpins on their lapels.

The following day suicide bombers associated with ISIS killed scores of people in Beirut.

And the day after that came the attacks in Paris, and in Baghdad.

On Sunday, I offered this prayer during services at Throop Church:

Spirit of life, spirit of love —

There are weeks when the news brings so much pain — sometimes even to the point of despair. Our hearts reach out today to the victims of violence, and to all those affected by it.

For many of us, Paris is a familiar place; perhaps we have visited it; perhaps we have read of it, or seen it in movies. It lives vividly in our imaginations, and to see such images of violence in it is shocking. Men, and women, and children — killed senselessly.

Fewer of us, perhaps, are as familiar with Beirut; but the people there also lived through shocking violence committed by evil men just days ago, with more men, and women, and children killed;— and in Baghdad as well, more violence.

All this, in a week in which we acknowledge the sacrifices made by soldiers, and pray that further such sacrifices will not be necessary; a week in which we commemorate one time when peace prevailed and a great war was ended.

These tragedies, on top of more personal sorrows that we may be experiencing, can lead us to despair at the darkness and hate in the world. So it is good to remember the words of Martin Luther King, Jr:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Let us be still here together.

We call you, spirit of love, spirit of life; we create you from this community of hope, to fill us with light to drive out the darkness; to fill us with love, to drive away hate; to surround us, and sustain us, in peace.

Image credit: Zeynel Cebeci, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. More information here.

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