Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Light in the darkness

Yesterday DH and I went shopping, a not unusual activity at this time of year, but a task usually avoided by us both like the plague, except for necessities. It was cheering to see the shops and streets decorated for the festivities, though a little worrying to see how relatively quiet they were so close to Christmas. I think many shoppers are pulling their horns in this year and the shops must be feeling the pinch.

On our return I settled down with a nice pot of tea to look though that day’s posts in Google Reader and thoroughly enjoyed the glimpse of a traditional German Christmas market, as given by Friko on Friko's Worldjust as I recently appreciated the tempting images of aspects of Christmas Spanish-style, as supplied by Annie on Moving On.

I think this juxtaposition may be why today’s shocking attack at the Christmas market in Liege in Belgium has hit me with particular force and left me feeling very unChristmassy indeed. Seeing ordinary lives torn apart by violence in the middle of the very activity DH and I had been doing yesterday brings home yet again the horror of man's inhumanity to man. It sometimes seems that our world is moving ever further from the angels’ message of “Peace on Earth and goodwill towards men”, a sad thought to ponder only 12 days before Christmas.

To comfort myself and remind myself that Advent is all about hopeful expectation, even in the midst of sadness and suffering, I have just listened again to the exquisite Advent Song, written by Christine McIntosh and set to music by her husband John, and posted very recently on her blog blethers. The words are here, and the music, sung by their church choir, is below. I hope it may speak to you as it has to me.

Image: Paul Brentnall / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


  1. Hello Perpetua:
    We too share your horror at the most dreadful atrocity committed in Liege today, a town through which we frequently pass en route between Budapest and London. It is, we feel, so utterly senseless and something which is so beyond any understanding.

    For all of that, and we in no way wish to lessen the horror of what has happened, the Christmas message remains one of great hope. We earnestly pray that each one of us has the courage to take it to heart and act upon it.

  2. Hello Jane and Lance and thank you for your words of encouragement. I don't often lose hope and it always returns, but I do feel so sad at what we are capable of doing to each other.

    I don't know Liege myself and can understand that the horror of what happened today must be intensified if you often pass through it. As you say we must hold onto the Christmas message of hope, even in the darkness.

  3. We checked at once to make sure that none of the family were in Liege and were relieved that the cousin...whose job takes him all over the place...was safe and well.

    It is so saddening to be brought to face the mischief we are capable of doing to each other, and the despair that brings about that state of mind.

    I just wish we were able to help to bring hope into those despairing minds.

  4. ly, it must be so much worse if you have family who could easily have been in the area at the time. There must be a lot of anxious checking going on all over the world.

    You are right about the despair that is probably at the root of so many of these acts. It is hard to comprehend how disconnected someone must feel from the world of ordinary emotion to believe that such an act is the only way forward. How one penetrates that barrier of separation I don't know.

  5. I share your horror at the events in Liege today.
    I cannot believe that a sane person would commit such dreadful deeds.

    The song you introduced here is truly wonderful, I listened and left a comment at the site. That's what my advent is all about too. Shopping, well it's necessary, but the peaceful atmosphere of a candle-lit afternoon is so much more healing to the spirit than a senseless rush through the shops.

  6. It's hard to believe that someone could do this quite rationally, isn't it, Friko? We see such horrors committed elsewhere for political or sectarian reasons, but there appears to be nothing of that here.

    I'm so glad you liked the song so much. I think it is hauntingly beautiful, both words and music and I know I will come back to it. I hope the rest of your Advent is peaceful.

  7. Being out and about myself yesterday, I missed the news about Liege as it happened and your post was the first to draw my attention to it. I have now read the reports and, like everyone, am deeply shocked and saddened. And what looks like a racist attack in Florence too today.
    Some rage I understand and believe justified but this sort of behaviour is unfathomable. As you say, it's the lives of those affected that draw our attention and heartfelt concern - tragedy at Christmas time is somehow even more poignant.
    There is lots of light and good in the world but sometimes it is more difficult to see. And I think 'shedding light' is such a wonderful metaphor for 'spreading good (and understanding and education and health...and all those things that should help to break down the barriers between people.)

    The advent music is beautiful and I thank you for sharing. And also for the kind mention of my own blog.

    And Christmas will come.

  8. Annie, just as you hadn't heard about Liege, I hadn't heard about Florence and have just read the reports. Sadly, such tragic attacks happen all the time and all over the world, but sometimes one has a deeper personal impact for some reason and this happened with Liege for me.

    All we can do as individuals is to try to be light-bringers in our own particular context. A multitude of tiny candles can make a big difference to the darkness.

    I'm glad your enjoyed the Advent Song. I think it is so lovely it deserves to be known more widely and the same is true of your blog. :-)

  9. Yes Perpetua a Christmas Market is the last place you would expect such violence.

    A friend and I were in Bath on Saturday on a Christmas theme trip with a local group. In the morning we went to the American Museum on the Claverton Down above Bath. Here twelve of the reconstructed rooms full of wonderful furniture, panelling & artifacts are beautifully decorated by the museum volunteers on the theme of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

    In the afternoon we were in Bath having met up with my friend’s daughter looking round the Christmas market set out close to the Abbey walls. Just before 4-00pm we were enticed in by cheerful Abbey Vergers to attend the last of their Carols for Shoppers Services. - they had four of these twenty minute carol services each Saturday on the three weeks of the Christmas Market and this was the very last service of the season.

    After asking us to introduce ourselves to the people sitting next to us and asking who had come the furthest – Australia, South Africa – they had three carols, including an angelic looking choir boy singing the first verse of ‘Once In Royal David’s City’, a brief talk from the clergy complete with a couple of Christmas cracker jokes, some prayers and the sound of the organ and choir soaring up to the wonderful fan vaulting of golden Bath stone.

    The Abbey was packed and the main doors of the abbey were left open so shoppers in the Christmas market could look in and hear the service. It felt almost medieval. I wish a Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year to you and all your followers Perpetua.

  10. PolkaDot, I think it's the dreaful contrast between what should be and what is that is so hard to deal with. As it happens the Liege Christmas market wasn't in action yesterday. Fortuitously, the opening had been postponed because of bad weather, otherwise the casualties would have been much higher.

    Your trip to Bath sounds wonderful, with the Christmas market and the Carol Service in that glorious Abbey. I bet you enjoyed yourselves enormously. Thank you for your Christmas greetings and the same to you and yours.

  11. The horror and joy, the agony and the ecstasy confronts us every day -- but when man is the perpetrator we are more horrified by our own ability to inflict horror and chaos. Your inclusion in your post of the wonderful Advent Song is gratefully received.

  12. Broad, you've summed up everything I was trying to say in one sentence! Thank you. I don't think I can add anything to what you say.

    I'm so pleased that you and others so much appreciate the beautiful Advent Song.

  13. Dear Perpetua,
    I haven't heard yet about Liege, but then I turned into the national news late and so missed some. I will go online today to find out what has happened.

    Thank you for linking us to the lyrics and for giving us the video of the music. So exquisite--as you said in your comment on the original blog.


  14. Hello Dee. I have a feeling the Liege attack hasn't had much coverage in the USA, but I'm sure you will find the sad details online.

    I'm so pleased at the reactions Advent Song has had from you and others. It's lovely to discover such a beautiful new work, where words and music combine so perfectly.

  15. We here share in the shock at the attack in Liege. Such senseless acts are so incomprehensible and the grief of so many in the wake.

    Christine McIntosh's son, and John's music was a welcome gift as I, too, sipped my afternoon tea, reminding me of the beauty and hope of Advent.

  16. Of course, I meant song (not son). Sigh

  17. Hello Penny and welcome. I'm sure there must be a great deal of sympathy in the USA for the citizens of Liege as you too have had similar community tragedies that have captured world sympathy. I think most minds must reel with incomprehension in the face of such random horror.

    Advent Song is the perfect reminder that there is light in the darkness and I'm so glad you too have enjoyed it.

  18. Thank you so much for sharing our music with your community, and to all the people who have commented on it. I find it extremely moving to be able to share in this way something which has meant so much to us.

  19. Hello Christine and welcome. It was my pleasure and privilege to share your wonderful song with a different audience. You and John have written something extraordinarily beautiful and moving, as the comments here and on your blog show. This ability to share things of value is one of the many lovely aspects of blogging which make it so worthwhile.

  20. Thanks so much, Perpetua, for sharing this beautiful music! It gives one hope in a time of such random violence and inhumanity.

  21. Good morning, Kathy. I'm glad you liked the song so much. As you say, in times such as these we need every reminder we can get of hope and beauty, peace and love.


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