Last Saturday evening, March 5, there was a prayer service for Ukraine at the Cathedral. It was well attended, with moving music along with passages read by Rev. Derek Elphick. We said prayers and lit candles on the chancel. It lifted our hearts and brought us together in feelings of sadness and the desire to support the people of Ukraine during this unjust attack. It is a real crisis that seems to have no reason behind it, a crisis that will touch all of us even though its events are taking place seven time zones away.
Although there is nothing good about crises like these, they do serve a use that is explained in the Writings. The use is that they have the effect, in various ways, of “subduing the external side of a person and making it subservient to the internal. This may become clear to anyone from the fact that as soon as a person’s loves are assaulted and crushed, as they are in times of misfortune, sickness, and mental illness, their evil desires start to subside.” (Arcana Coelestia 857)
That is, the urgency that is forced on us by crisis does not leave room for self-centered plans and desires. Instead, we are moved or obligated to respond to the crisis. Any kind of crisis has this effect, whether a national or personal emergency, a serious illness, or anything else that powerfully demands our attention. Not that we can’t respond in self- centered ways to these things, but they tend to knock us off our game and bring out people’s better natures. People want to help. Things like prayer services seem appealing and helpful at these times.
A key aspect of these situations is doubt about whether things will eventually be alright. A person who is in this state, we are told “is in doubt concerning the end. The end is the love... If the end which is loved were not placed in doubt, and even in despair, there would be no crisis” (Arcana Coelestia 1820).
The effect of this doubt about whether things that we care about will be OK is to move us to effort. Things that are urgent and important move us to want to do something about it – and this is where the goodness lies. We are told that “the heavenly proprium is formed within the effort of our thought” (Arcana Coelestia 1937). How much effort we are willing to devote to resolving the crisis, whatever it is, is crucial. Effort is like a magic potion for improving our spiritual lives, when it is employed in the service of a good love.
There is nothing good about crises like the one in Ukraine. But there is a lot of good in the efforts of people all over the world who respond to the crisis. Thank you for attending or tuning in to the prayer service and thank you for your efforts to help a nation in crisis.