This week’s prayers begin with music. Music composed in the late 18th century by an Austrian composer, using an ancient Latin text. Music sung, this past Sunday, by a touring Russian ensemble, at the beginning of worship in an Episcopal church in California, U.S.
But perhaps a bit of background is in order. The members of the World in Prayer team who take turns writing the prayers come from two continents, and half a dozen different denominations. And I, the writer for this week – my week began with music. The St. Petersburg Men’s Ensemble had performed at our church last Saturday. And when we booked the performance, they had asked – asked! – if it would be ok if they also sang during worship Sunday morning, so that in that way they could celebrate their Easter. (Don’t worry if you’re a bit confused – in the Eastern Orthodox churches, Easter occurs the Sunday after Easter in churches that follow the Western Christian calendar.) As they sang Mozart’s Ave Verdum Corpus, I was transported…into a place where the differences between us in language, culture, nationality, politics all fell away. Where even the words of the text didn’t matter. Where the music itself caught us up into a place so very near to God…
And I thought, “If only we could recognize every stranger as the bearer of amazing gifts.”
And then let’s pray.
Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus, performed by the St. Petersburg Men’s Ensemble on their “Live in Newport” DVD. Copyright 2014. Reproduced with permission. (If you have difficulty viewing the embedded video, you can also access the recording by going to https://youtu.be/EblcqRqLV0Q )
Holy One, give us eyes to see every approaching stranger as one bearing amazing gifts.
As United States President Donald Trump proposes charging a fee to those seeking asylum in the US,
As practical, along-the-way support dries up for those in the latest migrant caravan crossing Mexico,
As Pope Francis donates $500,000 to the migrant caravan,
As the number of migrants and refugees reaching Europe – Spain, Greece, Italy, Malta and Cyprus – by sea so far this year exceeds 12,000,
As the United Nations warns of a worsening humanitarian situation facing civilians across northwest Syria, with rising casualties, and “waves of displacement” due to intensifying conflict,
Give us eyes to see past fear and exhaustion, past seemingly-overwhelming numbers and unending needs.
Give us eyes to see the beauty that they bring.
Give us eyes to see the hidden, extraordinary gifts each stranger has to offer.
Risen One, give us ears to hear the music that unites us.
As Israel paused this week to for the annual remembrance honoring victims of the Holocaust,
As a young man spouting Christian hatred toward Jews attacked a United States synagogue,
As an attack on a Protestant church in Burkina Faso kills six,
and 40 Christians were reportedly killed in Nigeria on Easter,
Give us ears to hear beyond the burgeoning hatred and fomented distrust.
Give us ears to hear past religious divisions.
Give us ears to hear that all faiths that proclaim love, sing the song of the One God who draws us.
Beloved One, give us wisdom to succor every endangered being.
As Cyclone Fani makes landfall on the Eastern coast of India, where nearly 1,000,000 people were evacuated yesterday,
As the same cyclone endangers hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees still living in tents in Bangladesh, with no place to go and no resources to get there,
As Mozambique and Comoro struggle through the continuing downpours to try to begin recovery from the two devastating cyclones that hit there in the past six weeks,
As we learn that what was once the second largest breeding colony of Emperor penguins in Antarctica has completely disappeared due to climate change,
and the United Kingdom Parliament declares a climate change emergency earlier this week,
Give us wisdom to hold out our hands to all in danger.
Give us wisdom to share our knowledge.
Give us wisdom to heal our aching world.
Holy One, so fill us with the music of the spheres, that we can do nothing else than joyously sing the song of your unending love.