On Saturday, the only prayers I could offer up were the Litany from The Book of Common Prayer in the depths of shaking, horrified grief, just after we had enough hours of Internet to learn about the coordinated attacks in Paris — and, as not a few friends pointed out, suicide bombers in Beirut.
The Litany was my outlet. Because what words can actually express the shock and horror that comes when violence is suddenly so relatively close, in a place so much like home?
Paris, if you are curious, is 458.6 km from London, 1,094.8 km from Edinburgh, 1054.6 km from Berlin, 1,424.3 km from Rome.
As a Canadian reference point, Toronto is 351 km from Ottawa, 541 from Montreal, 1,401.2 from Thunder Bay, 802.4 from Québec City, and 789.8 from New York City.
That is to say that for us who live in Europe, Paris is literally close to home.
I have friends in Paris. I have lived in Paris cumulatively for three months. It is a great city, and I love it.
So what response is there, really?
From sudden death,
Good Lord, deliver us.
For times when we have no words of our own, there is the liturgy.
And the Spirit, who intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express (Romans 8:26).
Horror and terror have arrived home. We have been fortunate, have we not? Western Europe, after centuries of internecine strife, has been at peace — at least between member states — since 1945. And the amount of intranational violence (IRA, Mafia, etc.) has gone down as well. Most of our governments are fairly stable, and we have police forces and border controls and security services watching over us.
To have one of our national capitals targeted — and to have the group responsible officially declare that Rome and London are on the list as well — is a very destabilising event. Which makes the difference between Paris and Beirut.
And as soon as that realisation starts to sink in —
Well, pray for Beirut. And for the many nations and cities where this sort of violence and horror are part of life (and, thus, death). Be thankful for the security and peace we have enjoyed these seventy years, then pray not only for their continuation in Europe, not only for the leaders of Europe who must seek wisdom and good counsel in the years ahead, but for the day when such peace and security can come to rest upon North Africa, the Levant, and the Middle East, for decades when they, too, can pass their days in rest and quietness.
Lord Jesus, come quickly (Rev. 22:20).