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Speaking to the Soul: Consolation Prize

Speaking to the Soul: Consolation Prize

Holy Week, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 51:1-18(19-20) (morning) // 69:1-23 (evening)

Lamentations 1:1-2, 6-12

2 Corinthians 1:1-7

Mark 11:12-25

For a few years, a congregation that I belonged to observed Holy Monday by hearing three people share stories about painful moments or seasons in their lives. The pain of these stories was far enough in the past that the person could tell the story with composure. And yet, the pain in these stories was also unresolved. No one provided a moral to their story. No story had a narrative arc about what lessons they learned or how it made them a better person. We just heard each story, paused for silence after the story’s raggedy end, and then said a Psalm.

Over the years, there were stories about a home burning down, betrayal in a friendship, a period of deep loneliness, rejection by a parent, and the murder of a beloved friend. Although everyone’s experiences were personal and nuanced, we somehow connected deeply over the simple fact that we had all known loss and were humbled by it.

That’s the consolation prize for this life: that at least we can use our loss, loneliness, and sorrow to connect with others. In today’s second reading, Paul praises “the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction.” In all our afflictions, the consolation that God gives us is that we have something to share with others, whatever their afflictions may be.

This isn’t the consolation of platitudes, or of “I know exactly how you feel.” The consolation that Paul speaks of is simply the connection of suffering that is somehow shared, even when our personal experiences are far from identical. Paul finds meaning in his own affliction by knowing that it will help him to reach others: “If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation.” I miss those Holy Monday services of years gone by, but we can still observe this day by seeking and offering consolation through our connections with others.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as Priest Associate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with education, young adult ministry, and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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