The serpent uncoils

Just a few years ago, I had the privilege of supporting my daughter and son-in-law at the birth of their first baby. It was a stunning experience, as new life always is – but this time, watching the baby I had given birth to bringing her own child into the world, was intense, sweet and beautiful. As the midwives went about their calling, calmly, quietly, in a darkened room, as I prayed and did practical stuff, a long-awaited child opened his eyes on his new life. And it was indeed a miracle.

But from today that memory will for ever be torn apart. How would it have been if – like Mariupol today, Russian missiles raining down utterly without mercy – that maternity ward had suddenly been blown apart by the scream and grind of bombs? How could mother and baby have borne it, even survived it? The desecration by death of a place that should be full of life, of love and new beginnings is perhaps just that – a desacralisation of a sanctuary, of women’s and babies bodies at their most vulnerable time.

How will the women who survived ever be healed of their trauma? What does life hold for the babes born amid noise, chaos and collapsing buildings? Where will doctors and midwives find strength and solace? Above all, how and when will this inhumanity stop?

For this, truly, is evil, and it is more than just the routine, grey anthracite hardness of war. It is terror, and hatred, this shedding of blood that is death-giving in a place that is dedicated to life. The old serpent uncoils and lifts his many heads; the four horsemen are giving their steeds a little exercise, and unleashing war, hunger, pestilence and death upon God’s creation and God’s most defenceless people.

Albrecht Dürer. Woman-Sun and the Seven-headed Dragon

No words of comfort come easily, and nor should they tonight.

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.