The following poem by Francis Thompson – Envoy – expresses a deep sense of the momentariness of so much of our experience, and of the drawing on old remembered joys in order to sustain us during periods of great grief and travail. The sufferings of Christians in the Middle East – what they have experienced and witnessed, and the daily uncertainty of their lives, moving from one place to another in the hope that they may have finally found refuge from the murderous rampage of the Islamic State – is however, something that is barely fathomable for most of us here in the West.
We can though all know something of that process by which, in times of darkness, we are able to draw sustenance from past happiness, and, to the extent to which this may allow us to better empathise (albeit only in small part) with those persecuted brethren in Iraq, we may use those connections that our shared humanity affords us to enter more deeply into our prayers that they be delivered, and that strength may be given them to endure their trials. Furthermore, as Christians, we are united to those who suffer at an even deeper level, united by the grief of the Cross, but also by the glory of the Resurrection, which is our hope, and the light by which we know Tomorrow.
Let us pray that whatever stony ways they face, however filled with sorrow their days may be now, that the Christians of Iraq may know blessedness in their hearts, be strengthened by the Cross of Christ, and the life they have with Him now that, as it has love for its foundation, cannot end. I pray that their earthly deliverance may come, but also that their faith may strengthen them until that time arrives, in the knowledge that all our lives are but hid with Christ in God, alongside whom the holy martyrs of that land stand in glory:
Go, songs, for ended is our brief, sweet play;
Go, children of swift joy and tardy sorrow:
And some are sung, and that was yesterday,
And some unsung, and that may be to-morrow.
Go forth; and if it be o’er stony way,
Old joy can lend what newer grief must borrow:
And it was sweet, and that was yesterday,
And sweet is sweet, though purchas-ed with sorrow.
Go, songs, and come not back from your far way:
And if men ask you why ye smile and sorrow,
Tell them ye grieve, for your hearts know To-day,
Tell them ye smile, for your eyes know To-morrow.