Saturday, March 09, 2013

A holy sadness

Perhaps it is just the Lenten trek through Jeremiah, or perhaps it is something that has been growing over time.  Whatever the cause, I am developing a new appreciation for sadness.  There is something deeply real about sadness.  It is not grief, per se - it is not dragged out of you by a particular catastrophe.  It is the background awareness that much is not right (even if all is well in one's immediate surroundings), and that many are suffering (even if one's own life throws up only the most trivial inconveniences).  At its most basic level, sadness is a reaction - an appropriate reaction, although not the only reaction necessary - to a fallen world.

A man of sorrows.

There is a lot of sadness in the gospel.  It is not all joy and laughter, even if it is ultimately that.  "Then again Iluvatar arose, and the Ainur perceived that his countenance was stern; and he lifted up his right hand, and behold! a third theme grew amid the confusion, and it was unlike the others.  For it seemed at first soft and sweet, a mere rippling of gentle sounds in delicate melodies; but it could not be quenched, and it took to itself power and profundity,  [It became] deep and wide and beautiful, but slow and blended with an immeasurable sorrow, from which its beauty chiefly came."  (Seriously, read the Silmarillion).

Surely he has carried our sorrows.

Thinking a lot at the moment about what it means to stand with the world of sadness, but still within the light of the gospel.  Not to feel the sadness - to pretend that the sadness is completely undone - is, I think, to betray the world.  It is not to walk the way of the cross.  To indulge the sadness, on the other hand, is to be unbelieving.  Is everything sad going to come untrue? asks Sam Gamgee.  No, and yes.  Untrue, but not unreal.  Frodo has to go to the havens; the saved world is not for him to enjoy.  Sadness, but not all tears are evil.  Sadness does not have the last word, but it has the penultimate word.

To be sad, to be low, not for oneself but for the world.  Vicarious sadness.  Feeling the sadness that we all ought to feel.  And knowing that it is through sorrow that God brings joy.

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