Day 33 : Friday 31 March

Hear our voice, O Lord, according to your faithful love.

| Jeremiah 20.10-13 | Psalm 18.1-7 | John 10.31-42 |

Yurii Nagulko

Yurii Nagulko, Work commissioned for "Six Rags for solo piano" within a booklet accompanying Invasion: Music and Art for Ukraine, a 2022 album by pianist Nadia Shpachenko performing works by Lewis Spratlan.

Orthodox Metropolis of Kyiv. Good Friday Service [extract]. Metropolitan Onuphry, Orthodox Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine, leads Good Friday Service (2019).

from: Rowan Williams, “Sinners.” In Joan Chittister and Rowan Williams. Uncommon Gratitude: Alleluia for All That Is. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2014. (Continued from Day 32, yesterday.)

Rosa Parks died quite recently, the black woman who refused to give up her seat all those years ago on a bus in Alabama: the incident that really sparked the final and greatest phase of the civil rights movement. She was a humble person, even dare we say it, a good sinner.

She knew that she was caught up in a system of unreality, not by her fault or choice; she knew that she ought to be asking a question about it; she knew that there was, all of a sudden, a choice about whether she would let daily absurdity and injustice go unchallenged. And she was too tired to argue with her intuitions. She took her responsibility because, as a good sinner, she knew that whatever in her life was marked by a selfishness or idleness she could change if she wanted was somehow connected with the evil of the world around—and that therefore there was a possibility, an extraordinary possibility, of acting as if that evil was not the last word. If she could decide about something no one expected her to decide about, what might become possible for others? She didn’t know, and I don’t for a moment imagine that all this sort of thing went consciously through her head—but she acted as if the world was bigger than she or her society had thought.

That’s humility; and humility is also to be heard in the voices of those who protest about corrupt practice in industry, whistleblowers in any institution, people who say, “Stop; no one can be trusted with this sort of unaccountable power, no one has the right to protect themselves like this.” It is the radical voice that comes from knowing we all have to go on learning. It is a sort of self-distrust—but not the corrosive kind that says, I’m not worth trusting”; it’s more the kind that says, “I know my limits; help me stay honest.” And to others it says, “Don’t hide from yourself what you may become if you forget the truth.” Humility like this doesn’t make the world drab and dangerous, something to be avoided because it’s all too difficult. It uncovers a world that is dangerous all right, but one that has to be explored and learned about. Without that learning, we shall be stuck in a pinched and dull version of reality.

Humility ought to be the gateway to excitement, the excitement of precisely that grown-up sense of the world which is ready to make and to acknowledge mistakes for the sake of moving out into new depths. The good sinner is humble because he knows how much that exploration will be capable of getting distorted by the falsehoods he has taken in without noticing and that have become habitual and comfortable. But he knows that the refusal to grow and learn is to be condemned to what are, in the long run, worse risks.

Somewhere in the middle of it all is the buried awareness or half-awareness of that broken relation from which it all flows—that element in us that makes fear seem rational and natural when we look at each other and God. And we don’t really get beyond this, of course, unless we have a glimpse of what a relation might be that wasn’t like that. We need the tightening circle of our unreality to be interrupted by something quite strange. It’s interesting that, for a lot of people, being faced with a serious work of art, a play, a really good film, or a piece of music, is one of the things that gives them a clue about what humility means; here, faced with this strange gateway into another way of seeing or hearing, I know my World is too small and my life is inadequate.

(Continues on Day 34, tomorrow.)

May God our Redeemer show us compassion and love. Amen.