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Love Bearing All That is Unbearable

Updated: Mar 31, 2021

“It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.” -Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The aftermath of violence--from domestic abuse to political terror


“There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome.” -The Gospel of Mark, chapter 15


Good Friday places us with these women, looking on from a distance, witnessing the violence of the cross. Love draws us here, as love drew them to this crux of terror and powerlessness, where they were caught between the perpetrators’ ask and the victims’ demand. Of course, we have been here before, on other days. Witnessing violence, forced to choose a side. Absorbing violence, crying aloud or silently for help. Or doing violence, then needing to pretend, all of us, that nothing happened.


Christ brought us here simply to hold us in Love: to hold all traumatic reality in God’s own consciousness, as we become able to hold it too. Christ shares the burden of the pain. Christ’s action, God’s own engagement, heaven itself remembering--these make this day good and open a way for recovery, resilience, and the healing we call “justice.” Judith Herman says, “To hold traumatic reality in consciousness requires a social context that affirms and protects the victim and joins victim and witness in a common alliance. For the individual victim, this social context is created by relationships with friends, lovers, and family. For the larger society, the social context is created by political movements that give voice to the disempowered.” Such is the living Christ’s invitation to us, with the women, on Easter morning. To take the side of the victim. To nurture and sustain such a social context, a beloved community. To organize.


Sunday, that liberation day, is coming. Let today be Friday. Our souls need this Friday: one day each year to stop and behold the unorganizable, holy mystery of Love bearing all that is unbearable.


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