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As Holy Week begins, many search the scriptures for glimpses of Jesus of Nazareth through prayer and ritual enactment of His passion, death, and resurrection. Both Testaments reference God’s salvation mysteries, a response to the woeful circumstances that we have created for themselves. One of the most powerful images comes from the Old Testament, and still sparks fire in my psyche and reduces me to silence.

The image of an enigmatic suffering servant emerges in four songs, found in the Book of Consolation, attributed to Isaiah’s prophetic school, the Book of Consolation, in the sixth century, BCE.   

In the First Servant Song, Yahweh speaks of taking his beloved’s hand and forming Him, endowing Him with the spirit of prophets, gentleness, and soft-spokeness. As servant, His mandate is to serve the cause of right, to be a covenant of His people, and to free the blind and imprisoned.

To his former gifts, the Servant in the Second Song acknowledges his former gifts, adding his tongue like a sharp sword or arrow for disputes, and his light a beacon for all nations. Salvation is world-wide.

The gift of listening enables the Third Servant, with Yahweh’s help, to maneuver the courts; opposition will be devoured “like moths.” Critical, above all, is to lean upon God in the midst of darkness. The first reference to “plucking beards,” to “whippings” occurs in this Song.

But in The Fourth Song, the suffering servant bears the full brunt of unspeakable cruelties, many of which are identical with Jesus’s passion narrative in the gospels. These atrocities, silently borne, address the global sin that still persists.

So, superimposing these vignettes atop each other, reveal another way of viewing Jesus that still silences me, especially Jesus in His suffering members in Ukraine. There, fires still burn.

I sit in my wing-back chair, the Jerusalem Bible open upon my lap.

Earlier, I shuddered with media reports of Russians firing long range missiles at Kyiv, Karkiv, and Mariupol and more killing of civilians; with phone conversations blistering the wires between France’s Macron and Putin and between Biden and Xi Jinping.

Still another day of Russian mind control: the existence of biolabs and Nazis in Ukraine that justifies their aggression.

Yet, another day of Ukrainian resistance remains in place, with its demands for security guarantees from Russia, should it not join NATO.

Such terror-rhetoric glistens with menace, its intent to foist global panic: Ukrainians’ devastation could become the lot of other nations, including our own.

Such issues scathe my depths like zillions of flashing daggers. If unaddressed, psychic dismemberment occurs. I choose not to go there.

Instead, I enter within the psalmist’s imperative, Seek his face (27:8)—a redirection toward Spirit where, alone, faith stirs and stretches tall.

Like gardeners harvesting seeds of spent flowers, I collect my scattered energies and focus upon the present moment in which the face of God abounds. Today, I pray to be teachable, to live with events, terrifying and unpredictable as they unfold, fraught by Evil’s illusion.

We’re in good hands and always have been.

“It’s raspberry,” I said, pausing during our walk down the court and looking up. A diseased sweet gum had been cut down last autumn and replaced by an almost bare sapling; its flowering identified it as an ornamental plum tree, spring’s first color of many still to come; it heralded the blue sky filled with meandering clouds on holiday. A solitary honeybee alighted on one if its blossoms, restarting the cycle of honey-making.

Still marveling at the panoply of beauty gladdening my psyche, I took a few steps with my cane and my helper’s support and studied the trunk of the tree, its black bark curlicuing, at intervals, like the ringlets of a child groomed for a party. Again, I rejoiced with this ornamental plum tree rooting so deeply on our court; its previous history in a nursery also drew my curiosity, the work of caring tenders.

Spring also came to Ukraine this year, but its thaw was different from elsewhere. Reports of Russian tanks and other motored vehicles stuck in muddied roads filled the media. Explosions cut swaths through what used to be gardens and fields. Survival became more critical than planning for spring’s natural unfolding and consequent beauty.

Yet, memories of spring’s strong and gusty winds, of nourishing rainfall of seedlings, and of sprouting perennials must remain in Ukrainians’ psyches, despite their bloody history being replicated today. 

Again, nurseries must appear, and workers will cultivate flowering fruit trees, even ornamental plums, in this beleaguered country—Such sentiments fill the global prayer.

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