Poems and Prayers for Lent 13

This Sunday at CSBC we’ll read the story of Peter’s denial of Jesus.  It’s an odd choice for the ticker tape parade of Palm Sunday.  Then again, both events say something about the erratic nature of human faith: bravado and acclamation one day; trembling absence the next.

In Mark’s gospel Peter’s failure ends with the words, ‘and he broke down and wept’ (Mark 14.72). As I re-read this story this morning, it occurred to me just what a long time there was between this descending of grief and Jesus’ beach-side reinstatement of Peter post-resurrection.  How dark those intervening days must have been for him.  Perhaps, in some tentative way, Peter felt something of the Divine-absence Jesus expressed on the cross: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

Just today I sat with the a friend for whom the darkness of depression is a constant and exhausting companion. We read together Michel Quoist’s prayer ‘It is dark’ which says something of this. Perhaps Peter could relate.

Lord, it is dark.
Lord, are you here in my darkness?

Your light has gone out,
and so has its reflection on men and all things around me.
Everything seems grey and sombre
as when a fog blots out the sun and enshrouds the earth.
Everything is an effort,
everything is difficult,
and I am heavy-footed and slow.
Every morning I am overwhelmed at the thought of another day.
I long for the end,
and I yearn for the oblivion of death.
I should like to leave,
run away,
flee,
anywhere, escape.
Escape what?
You, Lord, others, myself, I don’t know.
But leave,
Flee.

I progress haltingly,
like a drunkard
from force of habit, unconsciously.
I go through the same motions each day,
but I know that they are meaningless.
I walk,
but I know that I get nowhere.
I speak,
and my words seem dreadfully empty,
for they can reach only human ears
and not the living souls who are far above.
Ideas themselves escape me,
and I find it hard to think.
I stammer, confused, blushing,
and I feel ridiculous and abashed, for people will notice me.
Lord, am I losing my mind?
Or is all this what you want?

It wouldn’t matter, except that I am alone.
I am alone.
You have taken me far, Lord;
trusting, I followed you,
and you walked at my side,
and now, at night,
in the middle of the desert,
suddenly you have disappeared.
I call, and you do not answer.
I search, and I do not find you.
I have left everything, and now I am left alone.
Your absence is my suffering.

Lord, it is dark.
Lord, are you here in my darkness?
Where are you, Lord?
Do you love me still?
Or have I wearied you?
Lord, answer,
Answer!

It is dark.

(Michel Quoist, Prayers of Life, 1963)

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