We recall a scene in Our Town, that iconic American play of the 1930’s. Near the end a young wife named Emily dies in childbirth. And from the grave she asks the Stage Manager, the godlike narrator who presides over the action of the play, if she may go back in time, back into her life for just one day. He discourages her; she insists. And she is allowed to return to an ordinary morning when she was a teenager. She views it from afar and relishes its quiet, ordinary beauty. But very soon she is overwhelmed by it all. It’s too much for her, and she cries out to the Stage Manager: I can't. I can't go on. It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another. I didn't realize. So all that was going on, and we never noticed. Oh, earth, you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute? The Stage Manager replies: No. The saints and poets, maybe they do some.
Our earth is wonderful, indeed, for Jesus has come to stay with us. His mercy finds us here over and over again. Eternity is always interrupting, if we dare notice. The amazing yet ordinary things- the beauty, the sorrow in human experience and in all of creation- beckon to us and draw us to him, who is constantly seeking opportunities to engage us. And the more needy we are; the more impossible our impediments, the greater the opportunity for Jesus’ graced entrée.
Day after day atrocities beyond imagining all over the world. And so again every morning, we bring each other, we bring the world in its suffering and despondency and seeming hopelessness to Christ, longing for the intrusion of his grace. Not knowing how to speak our need and longing, and perhaps deafened by too much tragedy, still we bravely pray with hope in our hearts. Christ Jesus assures us that he hears, he understands; that he is with us, he himself praying, articulating our desire in words beyond words. This is what our prayer is best of all: our desire groaned by Jesus for us, within us.
Photograph by Brother Brian.