Vigil Prayer

A Day of Contrition and Repentance Revisited

300TH Anniversary

Ralph Underwager

at

Salem, Massachusetts

January 13-14, 1997

We begin this revisitation of the Day of Contrition and Repentance of 1697 in the company of all those who, through the ages, have sought divine beneficence and divine guidance to right wrongs once done in fevered passion and now known to be gross sins of pride and arrogance.

A Prayer

God of all there is, You have given us to this good world as a place for us to bring to each other and all of life the qualities of freedom, truth, peace, and love. On this day, 1997, as did our forbearers 300 years ago, we join in confessing public sins and ". . . those errors . . . whereby great hardships were brought upon innocent persons and (we fear) guilt incurred which we all have cause to bewail . . ."

We aim at freedom for this good world, but also produce oppression and bondage.

We trumpet justice and fairness, but in folly often deliver a drumbeat of error and terror.

We answer wrongdoing with ever greater and harsher prisons, and then stuff them with the guilty and, by our confusion and "mysterious delusions," the innocent. So, as 300 years ago, we ". . . bring upon ourselves the guilt of innocent blood."

As did our forbearers 300 years ago, today, in contrition and repentance, together we plead.

HAVE MERCY ON US!

Today, as in all ages, the march of folly may turn a crumb of truth into a leaden loaf of self-justified violence.

In the lightning of blind pride we may enshrine our volatile feelings upon the throne of truth, and wield them as thunderous hammers of the gods.

Pursuing a curious alchemy, we may change lies into truths and truths into lies so to transform a crucible of fury into murderous verdicts of guilty.

As did our forbearers 300 years ago, today, in contrition and repentance, together we plead.

HAVE MERCY ON US!

Promising peace, we drown this good world in the blood of our mutual slayings through war and systemic injustice.

Crying "peace, peace, peace," we commit monstrous assaults upon guilty and innocent alike.

Masking our lust for vengeance as protecting the peace of the people, we destroy those of our fellow citizens we hold to be demons.

As did our forbearers 300 years ago, today, in contrition and repentance, together we plead.

HAVE MERCY ON US!

Stumbling through the gloom of human tragedy, we seek love in and for our hearts, and we are surprised to find white-hot hatred bubbling up beside it.

Inspired by noble hope to protect those we love and cherish, we generate fevered fear of real and imagined dangers. Both the real and the imagined we crush with stone and smite by fire.

Mistaking lust for love we miss full unity and intimacy, and, in frustration and despair, we punish indiscriminately.

As did our forbearers 300 years ago, today, in contrition and repentance, together we plead.

HAVE MERCY ON US!

As in 1697, again we ask you to ". . . show us what we know not and help us wherein we have done amiss to do so no more."

Grant us wisdom sufficient to bring freedom to the innocent while measuring out true justice for wrongdoers.

We plead together.

HEAR OUR CRY!

Bring to our minds a strong will for care and a calm peace in sifting through speculation, dogma, anxiety, anger, and pain to discern facts for solid judgments.

We plead together.

HEAR OUR CRY!

Show us the path to public peace and safety for young and old, for weak and strong, for meek and mighty.

We plead together.

HEAR OUR CRY!

Open our hearts to love and compassion. Open our hearts to humble ourselves before the glory of wholeness and unity of spirit, mind, body, and soul.

We plead together.

HEAR OUR CRY!

From this day forward we commit ourselves anew to right the wrongs done. We commit ourselves to free those wrongly imprisoned, and to bind up the wounds inflicted on them, their families, and on us all.

We declare together.

SO HELP US, GOD!

We pledge ourselves to persevere in the day and the night, in failure and triumph, in conflict and cooperation, bringing to us all ever greater measures of freedom, truth, peace, and love.

We declare together.

SO HELP US, GOD!

To those who sit alone, bereft of liberty and the love of any, to those most despised and rejected of humankind, to those overwhelmed by fear, despair, and churning bitterness, to those whose hearts are buffeted by waves of "Why this?, Why me?", and "For what can it be?", we promise we will not forget them and we will touch their spirits in tenderness by every manner open to us.

We declare together.

SO HELP US, GOD!

Orphans, widows, and widowers inevitably are made by pestilence, accident, and violent rage. Casually they are made by warfare around the globe beyond our control. But we Americans no longer will abide the creation of multitudes of widows, widowers, orphans, smashed families and murdered love within our own nation by the mindless enthusiasms, the dogmas of destruction, and the self-serving ambitions and rationalizations of our woefully erring government.

We declare together.

SO HELP US, GOD!

Brought together here this day by injustice perpetrated and unmasked, by history repeating itself, bound together by our common frailty, merged into oneness by our hopes for each other, for all others, and for the good world to which we are given, by our love we will heal.

We declare together.

SO HELP US, GOD!

AMEN AND AMEN!

SO BE IT!

 

 
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