A cold coming we had of it
TS Eliot Journey of the Magi
Chris McDonnell MARCH 18 2022
“A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.”
We are getting used to it. Families with back packs and small cases pulled along on wheels, struggle to reach the railway station, young children carrying their own small load in tow through crowded broken streets. Hesitantly they step over the fallen wreckage of bomb-blasted masonry and shattered vehicles until they reach crowded rail platforms and there they wait for a train to take them to safety. Day after day, one pitiful story after another is brought to our screens by journalists who have gone to a war-ravaged land in order to tell their story. They too share the risks, brought home only too clearly, with the death of the American film maker Brent Renaud in Irpin, a suburb of Hyiv a few days ago. In order to bring us the news and to tell the tragic story of war in Eastern Europe, journalists tread dangerous paths and some of them pay a high price with their lives. It was quoted in the New York Times, on 13 March, that Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said in a statement that Mr. Renaud “paid with his life for attempting to expose the insidiousness, cruelty and ruthlessness of the aggressor”
When he died Mr. Renaud was on assignment for Time Studios working on a “project focused on the global refugee crisis,” according to a statement from Time executives. More recently, a Fox News cameraman, Pierre Zakrzewski, was also killed in Ukraine. And so the casualty toll of those who tell us the story mounts.
One remembers the first verse of Bob Dylan’s album ’Slow Train Comin’’
”Sometimes I feel so low-down and disgusted
Can’t help but wonder what’s happening to my companions
Are they lost or are they found, have they counted the cost it’ll take to bring down
All their earthly principles they’re gonna have to abandon?
There’s a slow, slow train coming up around the bend.”
How do you pack a bag for such a journey?
What do you take?
What do you leave behind?
How do you take account of the weather prospects
with the bitter tail-end of winter
hovering in the ravaged streets?
Most people arriving at a rail station buy a ticket to a destination of their choice. Time and again these huddled groups of people have no idea where they will end up. Their ‘slow train comin’’ is filled up and they set off, leaving behind the familiar empty rooms of houses or apartments, their family homes
Many people in the West have opened our doors to those now homeless, offering them the normality of food on the table and a bed for sleeping, secure in the knowledge that their lives will not be blown apart in the dark early hours of dawn. Their gift is, without measure, generous.
But their Lenten journey is not over, it has only just begun. They have jobs to find and a new language to master, a future to rebuild and for the children, schools to become familiar with. A whole new world to face. The journey of the magi to visit the Christ was indeed hard going as they followed the star that guided them to a Mother and her new-born Child.
What of the world they have left behind? At the time of writing these few words, there are still talks taking place between Ukraine and Russia hopefully leading to a cessation of fighting. The hope of success is slim. Think of the images we have seen, of burnt-out buildings and rubble-filled streets, broken bridges, wrecked cars and scorched buses, the infrastructure of a modern city torn apart. When will image fatigue set in and Ukraine become another story? These terrible events have woken the consciousness of Europe in a significant way that cannot be ignored.
What will restoration cost and who will pay for it? When will people be able to return home and what memories will haunt the darkened hours of night, memories of those that are lost, the things that they had in their now-broken homes, the dreams that they once nurtured? Gone.
This morning I watched Jack, our black cat with white stubby paws stretched out on a rug by the warm kitchen Aga cooker, fast asleep, oblivious to the problems that face humanity, utterly content.
Now for the first time in 60 years, the nuclear option has become evident, and we wonder if in a reckless conclusion to his failed adventure he might press the button and in a fearsome flash of light, bring darkness to the earth. So along with the countless thousands of refugees we all face an uncertain future, brought about by the actions of one man, the Russian President, Putin.
Quoted by Reuters, Philip Pullella reported on the Sunday morning comments of Pope Francis of March 13.
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – A sombre Pope Francis on Sunday issued his toughest condemnation yet of the invasion of Ukraine, saying the “unacceptable armed aggression” and “massacre” must stop.
The pope has not used the word “Russia” in his condemnations of the war since President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion on Feb. 24. But the pontiff’s choice of words appear increasingly aimed at rejecting Moscow’s justifications for the invasion.
“Faced with the barbarity of killing of children, of innocents and unarmed civilians, no strategic reasons can hold up,” he told 25,000 people in St. Peter’s Square during his Sunday blessing.
“The only thing to do is stop this unacceptable armed aggression before it reduces cities into cemeteries,” Francis said.
That final sentence is already out of date with the siege of Mariupol leaving a shattered city and a starving people.
This Lent, our time of preparation for the days of Passover is pertinent. We are preparing for a Calvary that takes us along a rough and stony path, fraught with uncertainty and hazards. Maybe this is what is meant when we say that each must carry his own Cross just as the Christ did through the streets of the city of Jerusalem one Friday afternoon at paschal time, so many years ago.