A Prayer in the Time of Pandemic

Amid coronavirus fears, Jerusalem's Holy Sepulcher is closed on Easter, first time since Black Death in 1349. (Photo: File)

By Richard Falk

Affirming spirituality as the power over life and death I aspire to achieve
this spirituality that is nothing other than the blending of love and mystery
cherishing wonder at a precarious precipice, respecting knowledge
prayer seemed a weakening of spirit, a reaching out to the void, pretending
that there was someone there ready to respond, a metaphysical crutch in times of need
evading the loneliness of being when that other in our dreams is silent when and if we awake
we need not, must not, give up hope against hope, as nadezda mandelstam never did
we need not, must not, cling to promises that can’t be kept, pretending as paul did when
praising abraham as he “believed against hope in hope” taking the greatest risk
put more simply, still falsely, in Hebrews 11:1: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for,
the conviction of things not seen,” the assurance invented to banish uncertainty burglarizes
truth, demeaning faith as mere submission to authority, as refusal to live life fully, as refusal
of the enchantments of uncertainty, instead of continuing up mountains to heights where
justice dwells, climbing as the air thins, sustained by love by starlight truly certain and real

yet we can learn to see and understand anew, pushed by the crisis of the earth to open eyes
more widely, prayer will be loosened from moorings of church and state, only then becoming
truly sacred: so realized, prayer becomes fervent hope, not needing to be uttered as if a cry of
desperation no longer needing assurances or false promises, prayer becomes love and
attentiveness a stone thrown from land far out falling beyond sight in an ocean of uncertainty

yet not lacking courage to stare at bodies piling up in churches, morgues overflowing,
funerals on hold, statistics replacing stories so that suffering stays abstract, leaders standing
stiffly almost at a loss for words for the first time ever, yet uttering prime time moonshine
language as addressing sheep, confusing optimism with hope, curbing science and scientists
yet we go on listening restlessly waiting for a few words exhibiting love uncertainty, losing
patience with what we hear nightly we turn inward for knowledge for wisdom for love and
outward for love for friendship invisible communities all over the planet bonded by these
fervent hopes are gathering the strength to be ready for whatever comes tomorrow
and stand by this prayer

Yalikavak, Turkey
April 8, 2020

– Richard Falk is Albert G Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Research Fellow, Orfalea Center of Global Studies. He was also the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights. He contributed this poem to The Palestine Chronicle. Visit his blog.

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