Yes, that is how I meant to spell “mourning”!
Please don’t think I’m making fun of mourning, especially in this time of pandemic when all of our mourning traditions have been upended. We may all have lost someone in these months and been unable to give them a proper funeral. It doesn’t matter whether they died of the coronavirus or of more natural causes. We’ve had to let them go so quietly that it seems almost sacrilegious. Fortunately, God is such a loving Father that we can trust him to receive our loved ones with open arms and to give us the comfort we need as well.
Mourning is so normal and so necessary; it is part of the good, true, and beautiful that God built into our nature. Mourning witnesses to the relationship that has been interrupted by death. It makes us whole and gives completion to our earthly relationships. But in our present state of suspended normalcy we need to take a look at all the other things we are mourning.
I am a religious sister and while technically not a nun (like those in the great cloisters in the Church, the Carmelites, Benedictines, Poor Clares, Brigittines, etc.), it seems I have taken a vow of stability—and that’s unnerving for someone used to an active life. You can certainly add your own names to the list of the enclosed right now. The concept of staying at home (in place, as they call it) was probably fun when first imposed: I’ll be able to relax and do some of the things I’ve always wanted to get done around the house; I’ll write, or read, or paint, or sew, or sort, or clean out the garage or the freezer. Enthusiasm may have waned by now, however, and I’m chomping at the bit like a tethered horse, anxious to get back to pulling the load. Those words, like imposed and anxious, are starting to impress themselves on us. We start mumbling, Isn’t this the land of the free and the home of the brave? Then we remember that presently it has to be the land of the homebound and the home of the prudent for the sake of our collective safety. And, more than being irritated by our situation, we are mourning what used to be.
Another big item on our mounting mourning list is social distancing. In the last few decades clever people have presented us with all kinds of electronic gadgets to link us up with one another. We can press a button or two and be present to someone who is far away. This is so much more satisfactory than waiting at the mailbox for a letter or by the phone for a call. And yet we mourn the lack of physical touch. We want to shake that hand, look into the eyes, and pinch those cubby little cheeks. It is all so wearing, but so necessary.
Perhaps the most difficult thing about this pandemic is that it has made us all into frantic Mary Magdalens, confused about where to find Our Lord. “They have taken him away and I don’t know where to find him,” we cry. Mary Magdalen’s distress was a bit different from our own, however. She entered the tomb and found it empty; we know Someone is in our churches, but we can’t go in. The scene is different, but the mourning is the same. We long to go to Mass, to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion. For now we can only long for the One who is our dearest Friend.
Let’s also turn to the other Mary, our Mother Mary. She certainly mourned the death of her Son. Imagine the trauma of witnessing his Passion and seeing his dead body sealed in a tomb. But Mary mourned with hope. She trusted God and trusted her Son. She believed all of his promises, every one of his words. “On the third day I shall rise again.” Mary waited in quiet trust, with firm hope. Let our waiting, although way past three days, be a time of quiet trust and firm hope. Our mourning shall be turned to dancing. We shall be clothed with joy (see Ps.30: 11-12).
Perhaps we should return to Mary Magdalen again and remember that she was startled to find Jesus outside the tomb. He was right there in the garden with her. Soon he would meet his followers in Jerusalem and, in fact, he would be wherever his disciples were. And Jesus is with us today, wherever we are, waiting with us for the time we can join in the Eucharistic celebration. What joy!
Mourning is one of the eight beatitudes. Jesus declared mourning blessed. While we have this time of extra time we could sit down and reread the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:1ff) and consider what Jesus means by calling blessed the poor in spirit, the meek, the hungry and thirsty, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted, and those of us who are mourning. Spend some moments thinking and praying about these things.
I join you in praying for peace and God’s best blessings,
—Sister Mary Lea Hill, FSP
If you’d like to do some further reading on the beatitudes or on prayer, I suggest a couple of books written, coincidentally, by me. They are Prayer And You: Wit and Wisdom from a Crabby Mystic and Blessed Are The Stressed: Secrets to a Happy Heart from a Crabby Mystic. [If you have noticed the recurring theme in my titles, you may also enjoy my forthcoming book, Complaints of the Saints.]
photo: Ellie Burgin for Pexels