Oh, give me little time to pray: Jesus, Lay Your Head in the Window
“The wind blows east and the wind blows west, it blows like judgement day, and every soul that ever did pray will be glad to pray that day...”
In the very last minutes of a mighty day of remembrance and, I am afraid, not the last minutes of a viral cloud passing over our horizon, we should pause and think of the sacrifice of the thousands who marched for “jobs and freedom,” long ago, on August 28, 1963. As we are called to note about that great gittin-up morning, the assembly was met with the news that William Edward Burghardt Du Bois had died the previous evening in his destination home in Ghana. But as only a few of us will know or find in many ways emblematic, the Roman Catholic community honors on this day the great life and genius of Augustine of Hippo. Three of the most brilliant people ever to be blessed with the designation of African. (Because I said so.)
We must remember them, call on them, and feel their presence in our lives today, in this time, when the world is being subjected to viral, toxic winds that are blowing from every direction, truly making our time feel like the Judgement Day.
Too many people declare themselves to be shocked or stunned or overwhelmed by the anger and venom spilling forth in every part of this planet. How could we be surprised or bewildered or undone by the violence, the addictive hatred that marches in our streets? The sound of hatred on the march is the oldest rhythm of this country, devoted to equality and liberty and justice and fairness and decency – and greed; sexual coercion and domination; ego-driven assaults on the vulnerable and the marginalized; and the sexualized pleasure of public murders. As Martin Luther King said to us all, we should be concerned about the victim lying beaten and bruised on the Jericho Road, but we must be even more concentrated on why there are robbers on that road, and why there are so many who walk blindly by. The blindness is self-inflicted, the deafness is self-determined. “But that is not the way most of ......are. We are better than this. We have moved beyond mouths dripping with venom and guns pointed at those who have the courage to stand and resist and say, “No,” to anger and threat and chaos.” Believe that, wish that, at our peril and the collapse of all we thought we knew.
But there is a judgement day, for each of us. No matter how well-prepared we, some of us, thought we were, the death of each child; each young woman who thought that she was one of the free and unbound, each young man who believed that he had a right to dance to the rhythm of his heart and imagination; each sister, brother, aunt, cousin, father or infant – each death was enough to arrest our breath and pause the beating of our hearts. But none of these deaths could stop the determination of those who believed in their right to kill those who were defined as “them.”
What do we do? We do what the songs have told us over and over. My Lord, what a morning. But, more, this time, let our eyes hear the echo of the truth, “My Lord, what a mourning...” For we must stop and reckon with the devastation. As Audre Lorde told us, “we were never meant to survive.” Of course we will mourn ourselves for our fear. And we will of course mourn the death of all hope in the souls of those who seek to destroy all they cannot embrace. We will mourn the disappearance of our hope when the hurricanes drown Houston and Corpus Christi, and Ferguson and westside Chicago, and Liberty Village and Grenada and Cairo. We will mourn.
And then we will say, Oh, no. Ain’t no grave can hold my body down. If those women could push past their fear and the near certainty of their own deaths and seek the tomb of the blessed son, only to find the stone already rolled away, then we can draw in our collective breath and do what our first fierce ancestors did in the bottom of those imprisoning ships when they woke from dreaming of their homes and found themselves still chained, still smeared in their own filth, still hungry and dehydrated. We can do no less.
They sent out a song that was nothing more and nothing less than a storm of truth. No. Yes. Never. Always.
We will stay on the battlefield.
Let us be attentive to Sweet Honey in the Rock and Sonia Sanchez as they remind us that we are obligated to see the horizon beyond the nightmarish cloud. A total eclipse lasts no more than a few minutes. This darkness shall not prevail.
It never has.