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Speaking to the Soul: Rachel’s lament

Speaking to the Soul: Rachel’s lament

A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and much grieving.
Rachel weeping for her children.
She refused to be consoled,
because they were no more. (Matthew 2:18)

We were driving up the M1 north from London, late from a delayed flight, when the news came over the radio. I suppose I am too old to have heard of the singer. They say she draws a young crowd, which is why the arena was full of children and young people. Many parents waited patiently outside for the doors to spill out joy, excitement, the leftovers of a night of music. One father described being blown through one set of doors to another.

In the morning, through the next day, there were more stories of missing children, and a city that opened its heart, car doors, even homes and beds to stranded strangers.
It beggars belief that a person – someone’s child, someone’s friend, someone’s neighbour – could strap on an improvised explosive device and deliberately, deliberatively destroy so many families, futures, lives.

Rather than try to imagine the heat, the hatred that could move someone to mass murder, I would rather try to wonder whether I would open my door to a stranger, or trust the offer of a ride to a hospital reunion, as normal social barriers and defences were blown away by this awful and cowardly act.

Rachel weeps for her children, and Rizpah guards their bones. They refuse to be consoled, and we can only respect their grief. But we who tiptoe quietly in the background may choose the consolation of love, recognizing the remarkable acts of radical hospitality, compassion, and kindness that followed an attack, a futile attempt to destroy the bonds of love that bind the human family, made in one image, together.

The Collect for The Holy Innocents (BCP, p. 238)
We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Featured image: Rachel weeps for her children, via wikimediacommons

The Rev Rosalind C Hughes is the Rector of the Church of the Epiphany, Euclid, Ohio. She is presently visiting family in the British Midlands.


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Throughout the day, I have wondered about the mixed emotions that the parents must have had to know that their children were safe but in the homes of hospitable strangers. I am thankful that people opened their homes, and I know that all of us experience moments where we just have to trust the kindness of strangers, but given what had just happened, it must have been more than nerve-wracking for the parents.

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