All you who pass by, behold and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow. My eyes are spent with weeping; my soul is in tumult; my heart is poured out in grief because of the downfall of my people. “Do not call me Naomi (which means Pleasant), call me Mara (which means Bitter); for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”
Abuse proliferates in all aspects of human relationship, physical, emotional, sexual, ritual. It occurs in the most intimate of relations, and in the most institutional. It takes place in all cultures around the world. It involves the objectification and exploitation of women, of children, of men, of animals.
Those who have endured abuse, even if they escape the abuse itself, live in a prison of shame: “Women in recovery from abuse led us in… prayer, announcing that a force that tried to separate us from Creation and our deepest selves,” and that temporarily committed soul-murder, would no longer hold sway over them. Mention was made of abuse that had “harvested shame.” Amidst a chant about sadness and crying and screaming came the pledge to “throw down the shackles of shame.” Some of the leaders had their faces painted for a skit depicting a mother abusing her child with questions like, “Why can’t you be just like everybody else?” and the child answering, “Just love me.” -Matthew Fox, Creation Spirituality.
The child Cosette, placed in the care of abusive innkeepers in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, fed on bread crusts and made to sweep floors, sings in the musical version of the story:
There is a castle on a cloud, I like to go there in my sleep; aren’t any floors for me to sweep, not in my castle on a cloud.
There is a room that’s full of toys; there are a hundred boys and girls; nobody shouts or talks too loud, not in my castle on a cloud.
There is a lady all in white, holds me and sings a lullaby; she’s nice to see and she’s soft to touch; she says, “Cosette, I love you very much!”
I know a place where no one’s lost; I know a place where no one cries; crying at all is not allowed, not in my castle on a cloud.
Let us Pray:
Beloved Jesus Christ, by your death you took away the sting of death: Grant to us your servants so to follow in faith where you have led the way, that we may take away the sting of the living death of abuse in all those who suffer such dire humiliation, that they and we may live as your children and your likeness, for your tender mercies’ sake. Amen.
Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy
The ninth station: Jesus is laid in the tomb.
(All station artwork was produced by members of the Vanderbilt Divinity community from found and reclaimed objects. Liturgy adapted from St. Brendan the Navigator Episcopal Church, Stonington, Maine, 1993. The original version of this liturgy can be found at earthministry.org)