Recently, the song “Drop, Drop, Slow Tears” came on while I was listening to a playlist of hymns. I love this piece. Its slow, beautiful, relentless harmonies. I’ve listened to it countless times, yet this past week I was hearing the words anew. The first verse reads: “Drop, drop, slow tears / and bathe those beauteous feet / which brought from heaven / the news and Prince of Peace.”
The Prince of Peace. At those words, I was instantly brought back to Christmas. To being in Maryland with my mom’s family, to the lard-fried potatoes on Christmas Eve I wait for impatiently each year, to gathering around the piano to sing carols, to winter, to snow.
In the liturgical calendar, we are just days from the Crucifixion, and it feels like the Incarnation was mere moments ago. In hearing those words, it struck me that Jesus’ life of 33 years was short, and our celebration of that Earthly life, from Incarnation to Crucifixion, is even shorter —made more apparent by the persistence of cold temperatures and snowfall through the end of March this year.
This Lent I’ve experienced reminders of the shortness of life. It has been a season of death and dying in which I’ve lost my grandmother and ended a significant and beautiful relationship.
In this season of grief, I’ve been reminded that the only true constancy comes through radical dependence on God alone. Part of my practice (and let me assure you, it really is just a practice - a constant repetition of falling off and getting back on) of radical dependence on God is attempting to let go of that which keeps me independent from God. Sometimes, I’ve discovered, it’s habits and lessons I’ve been learning from a young age — to measure my worth in terms of my productivity, to make judgements of others depending on what they look like or where they come from. Sometimes it’s the internalized dominance built up inside of me that keeps my ego healthy and safe, but fractures my relationships with others. Sometimes it’s people that I cling to or am scared to let go of.
This Lent, while all around me, it feels, is death, the promise of new life is nevertheless present. In the days leading up to my grandmother’s death, amidst many consoling words and prayer, the most pastoral and comforting thing I read was on page 507 of the Book of Common Prayer. It begins: “The liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy. It finds all meaning in the resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we too, shall be raised.” This small, italicized note — practically a footnote to the main text — was what I needed to read to understand that it’s OK to let go, it’s OK to let death happen, it’s OK to say goodbye. Because in God there will always be new life.
I’ve come to understand this radical dependence through a process of letting go as deeply necessary in our work for justice in the world. Our outer realities will always be confined by our inner limitations and constrictedness. In a world that preaches accumulation and upward mobility, can we understand letting go to be a counter-cultural practice that is necessary to create the coming of the Kin-dom? I believe it is. Like Jesus, who emptied himself and accepted death on the Cross, practicing surrender and letting go is what will take us from here unto the Resurrection.
Luke Abdow is a community organizer at the Massachusetts Communities Action Network (MCAN), and a second-year fellow in the Life Together program. At MCAN he works to engage people of faith and values and religious communities across the Greater Boston Area in campaigns for racial and economic justice. His primary focus over the past year has been immigration justice. Originally from Amherst, Mass., Luke first came to Boston for college, and after spending a year in Senegal and France, came back to Boston and eventually came to Life Together. In the program, he has discovered community organizing, contemplative prayer, and community life all to be practices he is excited to continue exploring.