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Contemplative Response to Crisis - Communal Lament

From the Center for Action and Contemplation, Fr Richard Rohr shares a brilliant reflection on the power of communal lament by Barbara A. Holmes.

"Smoke" Acrylic Painting by Heather Thompson, Blue Phoenix Art
SOLD "Smoke" Acrylic Painting by Heather Thompson, Blue Phoenix Art

As a contemplative, this resonated in an ineffable space deep within my personal core, reminding me of a crucible moment when I released my transformative wail, NO emerged from my lips for the first time, and everything changed.


We are beginning another surge. The women are wailing. Will we wake up and notice? Or will the seduction of a return to normality cause us to keep drowning out the cries?

"Communal lament is important for several reasons. It wakes us up and, in doing so, makes us mindful of the pain of our neighbors, who no longer can go about business as usual when the women begin to wail. Their keening rattles both marrow and bone. Who can remain in a stupor with all of that yelling?! But lament is important for another reason: The collective wail reminds us that we are not alone. The sheer power and resonance of a grief-stricken chorus remind us that we are beings of quantum potential. We still have agency in every cell of our being, enough to survive—even this!


Lament is risky business. . . . The reasons that lament is risky are because it challenges power structures, it calls for justice, and it makes demands on our relationships with the “powers that be,” one another, and God. Once lament is released, it cannot be recalled. Lament is risky because we never know until the act is done whether or not we have gone too far.


Lament allows the pain to escape and stitches us to our neighbors. We are called to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. Our tears are our prayers when we can’t speak, a baptism of sorts, a salty healing, a sign of our vulnerability, and a liturgical response to violence. . . .


Lament is a collective response to tyranny and injustice. When we are confronted with the horror of our violence-laden society, our mindless killing of innocents, we shift from individual sob and solitary whine to collective moans. . . . In similar fashion, the Holy Spirit groans prayers on our behalf. In the Epistle to the Romans (8:26, NIV) Paul states, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit . . . intercedes for us through wordless groans.”


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