Sarah Staudt wrote the following in response to the tragic events at Virginia Tech this week:
In my darker moments during this week, I felt as though Easter forgot to come this year. Or rather, that it somehow came, and then was snatched away. In Chicago, the days before Palm Sunday were gorgeous, with the first flowers of spring beginning to bloom in 70-degree temperatures. But right around Easter, the temperature plummeted into the 30s again, and winter took over, as if punishing us for rejoicing too soon. I saw a field of what I thought were the first snowdrop flowers of the year, growing despite the cloudy weather and frigid air, only to discover on closer inspection that they really were snowflakes, clumps of unmelted wintry slush masquerading as the first signs of the season of rebirth. These weeks have felt foreboding to me, comfortless. Not much like what Easter should be.
And of course, the Easter Season took a truly unimaginable turn this year, when in those first early days of finally emerging spring, in the mountains of Virginia, 33 innocents died as they tried to learn in their classrooms. Senseless violence – that’s the phrase I’ve heard the most this week connected with Virginia Tech. And I’ve been waiting, as I always wait, as a Christian after the most horrible of events, for Christ to speak through the terror and the pain and give his children our direction, so that some good might emerge from the tragedy. But this time, no clear voice sang out. There was no great moral indignation, no strong, defining words of mission and purpose on the news channels. Everyone seemed to be in shock, and in deep denial. The killer’s sociopathy was mentioned time, and time again, We couldn’t believe that lightning could strike the same place twice. We decided, many of us, myself included, to forget, to disengage. We didn’t know what to do, because there was nothing to do.
The only possible response to this tragedy is intangible. The will be no concrete rebirth from this event, no tangible resurrection, out of this pain. We haven’t been used to this feeling. After Hurricane Katrina, the unity of the faithful encouraged our nation to consider the less fortunate. After 9/11, we were given a new understanding of the pain of the greater world, through the lens of the lives lost.
But here, today, in the face of these inexplicable deaths, what to we learn? That we should find the weak link in the disciplinary system of our schools and fill the gap? That we should get better at finding sociopaths? That can’t be it. There’s a group protesting at victims funerals who say that we should learn that as a country we deserve the death of our innocents because of our immorality. But the idea that this is an act of divine vengeance goes against everything I know about Christ. Nothing I can find, no explanation, makes any sense at all.
The truth is, there is no sense. And there is no mission, no change to be enacted, nothing to be fixed. We have no power here.
And yet, though this lesson is not concrete, is not worldly or tangible, we must learn through this tragedy that God is Working. The lesson of the terrible, non-sensical tragedy is that we are not always called to help, to fix, to understand. Sometimes, we are only called to pray. We are called to say a litany for those who have passed. To accept, not to deny, their deaths and to mourn. We are called to pray for their souls, and ours, to acknowledge that there are times when we can do nothing, blame no one, and fix nothing. If this is senseless, it is because it is beyond our ability to heal. Only God can ever do so.
And so, we must pray. Pray that God does what we can never do – heal, protect and fix what happened in the mountains of Virginia.
And in that way, we can still be reminded that Easter has come. And that once, God did the completely impossible, and healed the one thing our logical minds tell us can never be healed. And remembering that healing, that impossible resurrection, we must, as believers, be able to rise up at our Easter services and say joyously “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!” and know that whatever unimaginable power made it possible for us to say those words can carry our voices and heal what has been broken this Eastertide.