Up from the Ashes
A Thanksgiving Prayer
by Martha Blume
In my house of worship, stained glass windows depict religious symbols. One window holds the cross and crown, a butterfly and the phoenix rising up out of fire and ashes. The cross and crown represent for Christians the death and resurrection of Christ. The butterfly symbolizes the new life emerging out of the death-like chrysalis. The phoenix of ancient Greece consumes itself in fire every 500 years and rises, renewed, out of the ashes.
In the days following September 11, we came up out of the ashes and now we have the opportunity for a new beginning.
Neighbors and friends talk of hugging their children extra tight. Inspirational speakers and writers talk of reexamining our lives and refocusing on what is important. Music seems brighter, flowers more colorful. Every sunny day feels like a blessing.
All that inspires and drives us to live our lives more fully is much needed right now, just as we need spring to follow winter.
More than all that, though, we have the opportunity to reexamine how we live our lives in response to those around us. The collapse of the twin towers, the attack on the Pentagon, the loss of lives and of our feelings of security came with a jolt on a beautiful September day, to awaken us out of complacency. Violence and fear came home to each of us that day, and we knew firsthand the pain and suffering of the innocents of all the ages.
There is no time now for the complacency and smugness that were the norm for us just months ago as we went about our independent, consumerist, happy lives.
Every day, around the world and around the corner, people suffer from intolerance and injustice for who they are and for what they believe. Wherever there are ghettos of people living in poverty, where guns take the place of words, where eyes are closed to violence against women, where children are ignored, neglected, sold into slavery or kidnapped for military service, wherever people are oppressed in any way because of religion, class, gender, age, sexual preference or ethnic origin, there must the phoenix rise.
We are blessed to be part of a country built on the ideals of freedom from tyranny, on religious and ethnic inclusion and on protection of human rights. Now that the world comes to our aid, we should continue to lead in the fight against injustice in all its forms.
Like the mythological phoenix rising renewed out of the ashes, we have been awakened and renewed to all that is good within ourselves. Like Christ, who died to sin and rose to new life, we have been called to put behind us distrust, pettiness, intolerance, hatred and injustice against all peoples. And for those who themselves suffer from persecution, injustice and violence, my hope is that they, like the butterfly, find the strength and resources to break free from what imprisons them.
Out of the grip of fear and sadness comes opportunity, and we are called to embrace it. Whatever sustains and uplifts each of us and inspires us to do better, whether it be God, nature, family, solitude, literature, art, music or some other good may it give each of us courage to rise up out of the ashes.