The pandemic was grinding us down in the fall of 2020. Or, I should say, it was grinding me down. Things that had been new and secretly good about staying home were losing their shine. Loneliness, that dark flower, grew. And the days grew shorter and colder too.
One comfort in that season was the music from the Broadway show “Hadestown”. I’m not sure how I got so hooked on it, but I sang those songs and wrote about the show at Bacon for weeks. This past weekend, I got to see it on Broadway.
“Are you going to cry?” my older daughter asked, as we walked from our hotel to the Walter Kerr Theatre.
“I’m going to cry,” I answered.
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In “Hadestown”, the King of the Underworld mourns the loss of his wife Persephone when she returns to the surface of the earth each year for six months, bringing spring and summer.
Things aren’t right between them. She has fun “livin it up on top” and only returns to him reluctantly.
Persephone, up above, meets the young musician Orpheus, much in love with the beautiful Eurydice. He’s working on a song to restore balance and harmony on earth, and Eurydice believes in him. After Persephone returns to the underworld, harrowing storms follow in her wake. Orpheus continues to work on his song, not hearing the woeful cries of his beloved Eurydice.
Eurydice, in her fear and anguish, turns to the King of the Underworld for comfort. He convinces her to return to Hades with him.
What follows are the trials of Orpheus: his journey to the underworld; his pleas to Hades to release Eurydice from her bondage; and – hardest of all – the great and final test Hades sets before him. Orpheus must travel the long journey back to the surface, Eurydice behind him, without once looking back to confirm that she has chosen to stay with him.
It’s a love song. It’s a sad song.
We tell it again and again, hoping for a different ending each time.
We know, in our hearts, that the story can’t change. It was long ago. But we can.
* * *
From Bacon, October 12, 2020 ~[When Orpheus and Eurydice fall in love:]
Eurydice, with all the love and joy a heart can hold, asks this of Orpheus: promise me that things will always be this way.
“I promise,” he says – and I would have believed that boy too.
One’s heart breaks for their love, and their youth, and for their belief that anything might stay the same.
One must not hold too tightly to anything, I have come to believe… and you should never ask love to stay still.
Love will grow or it will diminish. It will twist and turn and reach for the light; it will sink into the abyss and crawl out screaming; it will take one step at a time, calm and steadfast; it will run and also stumble; it will feast and it will starve; sometimes it lasts, yes, but it is always moving, through us and between us.
The wind will always change on us, dear Orpheus and Eurydice…
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For more on “Hadestown”, you’ll see that there’s an entire tab at the top of your screen, with 9 or 10 posts.
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And in the hotel room, I continue to take great comfort from Prayer in the Night, by Tish Harrison Warren:
Does God ever bring emotional or spiritual or even physical healing in an instant? Sometimes. He certainly can. But soothing most often looks like tiny provisions, crags of grace on a long climb. There is healing in the Christian life. There is soothing. I’ve tasted it and even seen it, but we don’t get to choose when or how it comes.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin reminds us, “Above all, trust in the slow work of God.” We ask the Lord to soothe the suffering, and then we remember de Chardin’s call:
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.