by Agnès Adeline-Schaeffer
Translation Louise Thunin
In the subway, my car stops in front of an advertisement for Médecins du monde (Doctors of the World). I’m captivated by the reality of the photograph.
A refugee camp with tents. Black and white. A sort of Calais jungle, in the rain, with a provocative title : The Beauty of the World. My blood runs cold. And beneath the picture, this text : The Beauty of the World. To perceive it sometimes requires the worst. A dark sky transformed into a roaring nightmare. Trees reduced to twigs. Sheet metal looking like cardboard. It requires terrified cries in front of the water, the mud, the wind, all of which are carried off by the fury of the wind. It requires cholera. The irony of thirst after such incredible downpours. And it’s then and then alone that one perceives it. Within the walls of a care center built for those who have nothing left. In the face of a man who, finally, has been able to drink. In the eyes of a mother whose child we’ve managed to save. That’s the beauty of the world. It makes me want to cry.
I’m home to prepare for the Christmas service. It’s my twentieth year in the ministry. Does Christmas still have meaning for me ? Frightening news has come out of Berlin, and there’s that accident in Vendée, and the man who was decapitated. And all the rest that we either don’t know about or have forgotten.
How many people are going to spend Christmas weeping ? And feeling rebellious ? There’s good reason to.
I look at the Biblical texts for December 25th. The Gospel of John. In the beginning was the Word. That very One that causes light to appear, from within the heart of darkness. Jesus, the hidden beauty of the world ? The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it. Darn, as good news goes, there’s better than that ! The light doesn’t illumine me any more than the rest of us. I’ll work on my sermon later.
Morning comes. Nothing has changed since yesterday, and yet, everything is new. Light, still a bit pale, is shining in my house, and it slowly diffuses. To perceive it sometimes requires the worst, as Doctors of the World say. However, there are people, as John writes, who perceive the light, who welcome it, and who transmit it. These people in turn become sources of light. It’s their hidden beauty. The Word in action.