Ruth’s magnificent words to Naomi reverberate down through the ages and are echoed in Christ’s words to Mary Magdalene in the stories of the Resurrection. They speak to a deeper sense of our humanity and to the ways in which we are connected to one another, especially in these times when we seem most isolated, more disconnected, and, perhaps, more fearful. It has been an unusual week and in some ways unprecedented.
The latest upsurge in Covid-19 contagions in Nova Scotia has resulted in a two-week lockdown but as a boarding school we have to find ways to carry on carefully and responsibly which is what we are endeavouring to do. There is a life-lesson in all of this. It is altogether about how we face difficult and challenging things which conflict with our expectations, desires, and demands. It means discovering an inner strength and life rather than being defined by events and circumstances over which you have no control.
We have heard the mantra that we are all in this together which has at once the truth and the meaninglessness of a cliché. How things play out vary considerably from one person, one family, one institution, and another, illustrated most clearly in the arbitrary nature of restrictions and permissions. Yet that becomes the territory in which we reclaim responsibility and exercise a proper sense of compassion. It means looking inwards in order to look outwards.
Mary Magdalene comes to the empty tomb expecting a corpse. She comes in grief and sorrow. What she encounters is what she is not expecting. She even mistakes Jesus for a gardener! There is a wonderful irony in her mistake. For the Resurrection is in the garden, as it were, and recalls us to Paradise, to creation itself, and thus to the new creation which is the Resurrection. It may be that she “comes to the garden alone,” as the old hymn puts it, but she is set in motion to the others by Jesus. Her sorrow is turned into joy. She is set in motion, literally sent on a mission. “Go and tell my brethren, I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” She is apostle apostolorum, an apostle to the Apostles, as the early Fathers of the Church note with a sense of wonder. His words take up Ruth’s words to Naomi about going with her to Bethlehem, to her people and to her God. It offers one of the senses of the universality of our humanity that the Scriptures present. “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1.16, 17). Wonderful words.The Book of Ruth is a little book tucked in between Judges and 1st Samuel in the ordering of texts in the Christian traditions of the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate and by extension into the vernacular translations. Its reflective tone and feel contrasts with the stories of war and conflict.
Human individuality does not mean isolation and separation. It means instead a deeper sense of our connection and care for one another. Perhaps we learn that best in trying circumstances and in the paradoxes of our time where being apart from one another is the necessity for our being together. The challenge is to discover the greater bonds that connect us to one another rather than being opposed and fearful about one another. Being an individual, after all, is not about being an idiot. We can only be truly individuals through our commitment to the forms of common life in a community.
Such is the real meaning of a school. It is a community of learning where respect for ideas and truth are held sacred. That is the point and purpose of Chapel even at a time when we are not able to be together physically. We are together spiritually.
(Rev’d) David Curry
Chaplain, English & ToK teacherChair of the Department of Religion and Philosophy