A Symbol of our Time

— Midweek Meditations:
thoughts, inspiration and encouragement
from ACF community members —

This week school started up again in our part of Germany. Children, parents and teachers are doing their best to make learning at home succeed as well as possible.
The lockdown rules have tightened too and all of us are trying to balance necessary social interaction on one side and responsible behaviour to keep all of us safe on the other.

When leaving our homes, grabbing a face mask has become second nature. Covering our mouths and noses is for some of us something we’ve gotten used to, whereas others are dreading it each time over again. There are those contemporaries who wear their colourful face coverings with pride or choose carefully which one best matches today’s outfit. Some of us cherish them for a different reason: they communicate love & care for each other and the willingness to put the well-being of our neighbour before one’s own comfort. On the other hand, people who for medical reasons are exempt from this particular rule of virus control, are in public harassed, insulted and thrown out of shops and public transport. Furthermore, there are our fellow citizens that vehemently reject face masks and see in them a tool of oppression.

The face mask certainly has become a symbol of our time. There are many ways to read it, many different emotions that are stirred up by it. And here our humble face mask almost seems to join the ranks of the symbolism heavyweights like the Dove, the Star of David and, indeed, the Cross. They create kinship as much as they separate. They evoke hope and joy, but at other times speak of oppression, of ridicule or of elusive utopian fantasies.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Cor 1:18 (ESV)

The both divisive and uniting nature of symbols seems to have been existing ever since humans have started to express themselves through cave paintings and wood or bone carvings. Pondering on the symbolism of the world surrounding us has a long tradition that has continued to this very day.

One of the countless present-day thinkers on symbolism, current events and spirituality is The Right Rev. Dr. Richard Bott, Moderator of The United Church of Canada. A few months ago he published a poem pondering the face mask.

May it speak to your hearts as it has to millions others around the world and may it inspire you to encounter God and your neighbour in the routines and nuisances of pandemic life.

And as a side note: I highly recommend following The Right Rev. Dr. Richard Bott on facebook for many more thoughtful and prayerful poetry inspired by current events.

Enjoy this prayer for mask wearing…

A prayer as I put on my mask

as I prepare to go into the world,
help me to see the sacrament
in the wearing of this cloth –
let it be “an outward sign
of an inward grace” –
a tangible and visible way of living
love for my neighbours,
as I love myself.

since my lips will be covered,
uncover my heart,
that people would see my smile
in the crinkles around my eyes.
Since my voice may be muffled,
help me to speak clearly,
not only with my words,
but with my actions.
Holy Spirit,

As the elastic touches my ears,
remind me to listen carefully –
and full of care –
to all those I meet.
May this simple piece of cloth be
shield and banner,
and each breath that it holds,
be filled with your love.

In your Name and
in that love,
I pray.

May it be so.
May it be so.

The Right Rev. Dr. Richard Bott

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