I went to a Celebratory Evensong at Exeter Cathedral yesterday. I always find services at the cathedral to be profoundly reassuring. There is a palpable sense of permanence, of a continuous chain of human skill and striving across the centuries, and a quiet (and very English) determination to ‘fight the good fight’ in the face of a world that’s very noisily going crazy. I was given hope that the rock of faith can weather this storm too and that mankind’s spirit will remain essentially untouched as long as that continuous chain of striving remains unbroken.
When I got home I found myself contemplating the power of common worship, of prayer, of love, and of forgiveness.
Love is light. Light is energy. Energy is food. Love is food, the food of life.
Love, and, crucially, memories of love sustain us as we move through our lives. Memories of love are just as real and powerful a lifetime later as they ever were, and they nourish us. Just think back to a moment in your life which was full of love, and notice yourself smile, feel your spirit being lifted, feel your body being energised. It’s an everyday miracle, and it truly is “better to have loved and lost” because love is never lost. It never loses its power to nourish us.
But when we love, loss is inevitable, and loss is frightening. Fear causes hurt and harm. Hurting oneself or another blocks the light of love. Hurt comes in many forms, and just as love never loses its power to nourish, fear never loses its power to destroy. Bitterness, resentment, despair, hatred, loneliness, jealousy, guilt… all of this must somehow be left behind when we experience loss.
To leave the hurt behind we must overcome the fear. To overcome the fear we must understand that loss is necessary. We must understand that we choose our experiences, and that we therefore choose their endings; that everything is transitory, and while we crave permanence we also know that we only need to experience things temporarily in life in order to learn what we need to grow; that anything that didn’t happen as it should or wasn’t completed can be corrected, but only by moving forward and welcoming new experiences; that we are here to grow, and that growth by definition means loss.
Love and fear. Good and evil. We are bound up in both on this Earth, and in order to fully experience the one we must conquer the other. And it really is very simple, although of course it is profoundly difficult. If we can forgive ourselves and others for the hurt and harm that we did and that was done to us then at a stroke the hurt and harm will disappear, because the fear will disappear. The grace of forgiveness is everything. Without it, even love loses its power to nourish, sustain and transform us.