Holy Sites: Retreat

Reading history past and history of my own time, reading of the waste of human life in war, genocide, holocaust, vanquishes my spirit, my hope for the human condition. Massacres read of in Holy Scripture are mimicked with massacres occurring in 1982 in Lebanon, a few hours by road from where I was studying, a whole village of women and children slaughtered, innocent human lives, massacred by gun and knife, bodies of children only moments before running around laughing and playing, their lifeless bodies piled high in the streets, eight-year olds, ten-year olds, mowed down by heavily armoured men who dumped the children’s small lifeless bodies into an unnamed mass grave -1982.

It can be a sick world, this modern enlightened world of educated elites who also have bloodied history with their greed. Intelligent people create wars. One might want to escape. The Desert Aesthetes who went out to the Wadi caves away from the world, even in their isolation said they were praying for the city. They felt prayer was the best they could do. They never left the human city in their hearts.

I look at this image above or a desert monastery and wish myself in that top room surrounded by unscalable cliff sides, protected by heavy gates, in a place of security, of a sheltered oasis, away from the sickness of this world.

But we can’t be there. No matter what riches one might have to build a fortress, humanity is within us, the light effervescence and the dark shadow. We are to press on, to make good things, act in good ways, for as the words of Julian of Norwich, given me by my elderly, matron caretaker, surrogate mother, written in her beautiful script, to carry on my journey to the Holy Land, on a piece of paper kept near my heart for strength, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

We must trust. Ourselves. Some companions along the way. It is not the great edifices that endure but the spirit of the children, the lovers, and the poets.

Josiah pursued his dream for empire. His magnificence as the greatest of kings of Israel was written into holy text. Yet in the instant of the flash of a spear at Megiddo, his grand designs were vanquished. He is barely remembered now, but day following day, the sun continues to rise over Megiddo.