|Virgin Mary - El Greco 1585|
Saturday, October 22, 2016
THE VALE OF TEARS
Yesterday (Friday) 4:00 p.m.
I was sitting at my computer in my room in the monastery, doing some final editing of the manuscript of a book of reflections on the Easter Mystery and Christ’s ultimate victory over death and sin.
I was polishing the grammar in a chapter about walking with the lighted paschal candle into the darkened church when I heard BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
I knew that the sounds that had echoed off of the tall telephone building less than a block away were gunshots, but my wishful thinking transformed them instantly into normal noises from the construction going on near that same building; maybe a load of scaffolding fell off of a truck. (Yeah, right!) I went back to my editing and thought no more about it.
Same day 7:20 p.m.
My brother monks and I are standing in a semi- circle in the sanctuary after Vespers singing the traditional “Salve Regina” in honor of the Blessed Virgin, facing her carved image that hangs high above the choir stalls illuminated by two spotlights. We chant in Latin, as we do every night: Salve, Regina, Mater misericordiæ,
But the words have a particular poignancy this evening, because on William Street, less than thirty yards away from where we’re standing, a man had been murdered at 4:00 this afternoon.
Salve, Regina, Mater misericordiæ,
Hail, Holy Queen, mother of mercy…
Have mercy on the man who was gunned down, and on his family, and on the person who shot him.
vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve.
Our life, our sweetness, and our hope
Life … sweetness … hope… Although these three words seem out of place here at the moment, the word “hope” does seems to be something to pray for in a special way tonight.
Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevæ,
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve,
I think of all the children of Eve in our city who need Mary’s protection as they make their way through the shadowy violent world of gangs and drugs.
Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes
in hac lacrimarum valle.
To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping
In this vale of tears.
“Vale of tears” fits, I think to myself. If the world is a vale of tears, the name seems to fit our particular part of the world particularly well.
At the words “mourning” and “weeping” I think about the parents of the victim, and his friends.
The only thing I remember about the rest of the song is praying for the man’s mother, and asking Mary to comfort her.
After the song is finished, Abbot Melvin sprinkles us with holy water, and we file out of the church in procession, two by two; the Salve Regina is still echoing in my heart.