“It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land…for the sun stopped shining.”
The heavy cries of the swooping seagulls fell silent and a chill crept into the air as the Moon came between us and the Sun. The deep shadow, which formed first in the North Atlantic, swept up into the Arctic and at the North Pole became no more. As the recent solar eclipse reached totality and the irridescent crown of the corona surrounded the sun, words from Pádraig Ó Tuama’s poem, In-between the sun and moon came to mind:
“In-between the sun and moon,
I sit and watch
and make some room
for letting light and twilight mingle,
I first came across this Irish Bard when a writing scholar at Vaughan Park said to me, ‘oh, you must discover him’. So I did. Actively involved with the Ikon collective in Belfast, The Corrymeela Community and the Irish Peace Centres, Ó Tuama gives an earthly and transcendent voice to life, troubles and hope.
The lamps are going out over Syria, reports Gerald Butt, the Middle East correspondent of the Church Times. According to satellite imagery at night, the destruction of 83% of lights in the country has plunged most of this fertile crescent into darkness.
After four years, the war rages on and highly publicised extreme violence by cross-border terrorist groups and the myriad violations of international law and human rights committed on all sides has spread to other countries and engendered fear and atrocity across swathes of the world. Fighting men and praying men lie side by side…their harmony together is found in rounds of fire and occupation. For most of us, what is happening is a scenario too stark, too horrible, too brutal to fully contemplate over breakfast or at any other time.
There are those in the three Abrahamic faiths who preach from lofty heights where the air is cold, that what is happening in Syria is linked to Biblical and Islamic prophecy about the End Times. As they turn a well-thumbed page of The Revelation of St. John the Divine, they confidently propagate their thirst and hunger for Doomsday while ten million innocents have fled their homes, are without shelter, war-ravaged, hungry and thirsty. Many people are not even able to bury their dead.
To mark the fourth year anniversary of the war on 15th March, #With Syria, a campaigning coalition of more than 130 humanitarian and human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, Christian Aid, Oxfam and Save the Children launched a video, ‘Afraid of the dark’, calling on world governments to do more to end the suffering of the people.
Thanks be to the people who refuse to let hope die and live Christ’s gift of peace.
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”
The bones of a Plantagenet king, on the throne some 500 years ago, were unearthed by chance and, watched by thousands, were re-buried within the small and beautiful Leicester Cathedral a few days ago. Richard III died in battle at Bosworth Field in 1485 and his body was buried by Franciscan monks in a simple grave. Leicester City Council unknowingly covered his burial place with tarmac and made it into a car park. Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, acknowledged that Richard was not a man of peace. “The time into which he was born, and the role into which he was born, did not permit that. But now we pray for his eternal peace.” History is sometimes seen through a glass darkly. “What is truth?” asked Pilate. “
There are fragments of who and what we are in all the characters and events of Passiontide and Resurrection:
“ The soon –to-be Easter light…
highlighted the night between
our fallings and our flyings
on this Friday of our good sorrows,
or bad sorrows
our mad, and sad,
glad that there are gladder days beyond these days sorrow.
We toast the night, o felix culpa,
and hide the light of lights
for a while”.
In Scotland, where I am currently living and working, the dying days of winter are giving way to Spring. The heavy rains have almost gone, the flowers appear on the earth, the blackbird sings. Autumn in Aotearoa heralds a different season of colour, of ripening and fruitfulness, where new thresholds and possibilities beckon and emerge.
Wherever we live in the world, can we trust the Easter promise of these openings and unfurl ourselves into the grace of new beginnings?
Jasmine is the symbolic flower of Damascus. In April each year, there used to be a Jasmine festival held there. It still blooms amidst the rubble and fragrances the air.
©Hilary Oxford Smith
31 March 2015
 Ó Tuama, Pádraig, readings from the book of exile, Canterbury Press, Norwich, 2012, p. 12
 Afraid of the Dark, https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=EWwLzEQazcc
 Ibid., Good Friday, p. 16