We are living in a world in which we are used to keeping everything at a distance. Admittedly, we are daily reminded of the misery of the world, but usually we don’t stop to think of it much. When we have seen the daily news we go back to the order of the day. After all, there is not much more we can do if we want to fulfill our daily obligations. The only way to bridge this distance and still be able to do something at that distance is to take the misery of the world to heart, irrespective of the fact that we can actually do so little. A master in this art was Etty Hillesum (1914-1943)* who, during the terrors of the Second World War, gave herself the task: “I want to be the thinking heart. I would wish to be the thinking heart of a whole concentration camp.” Her broken life is a witness of taking-to-heart, whereas outwardly she could do nothing for others. What do we then have left? The thinking heart.
There is a moment in the Act of Consecration of Man that asks for taking the world to heart. But usually at this culminating point of the service we are so busy with ourselves that we forget the rest of the world. After all, it is the most intimate moment when we, each for herself or himself, receive the peace. What kind of peace is that?
The Act of Consecration itself gives an answer, but we tend to forget this answer when we receive the peace of Christ. For early in the Communion, He says: “This peace with the world can be with you also…” In radical terms: His peace is not earmarked for me, but through me: for the world, with the world. In the most precious moment of the Act of Consecration of Man, if we take the suffering, battling world to heart in our thinking, this world can briefly come to rest in us and find peace.
-Rev. Bastiaan Baan, October 23, 2022.
* Etty Hillesum was a young Jewish woman in Holland who was picked up by the Nazis during World War II, spent time in the Dutch concentration camp and died in Auschwitz. She left a diary in which she recorded profound experiences.