Holiday church services have much in common. The mundane display of new clothes; the precious joy of families worshipping together; the affirmation of spiritual truths: peace, generosity, and gratitude.
And infants in parents arms - crying.
Who hasn't learned how "not" to hear the mini-tantrums of babes among the pews.
Our cover story (see story this page) recalls a much more somber, serious, and sadder echo in churches. Scott Peterson recounts something that in moments of reflection this season we should all remember as we count our blessings.
In the Soviet Union, some churches and monasteries were turned into prisons. The cries of people being interrogated and tortured by secret police and Stalin's NKVD were muffled, unheard by the outside world.
Today, the restoration of these holy sites in Russia is one of the great victories since the fall of the Berlin wall. Voices again uplifted in prayer. Hope transforming former chambers of horror. The restoration of St. Catherine's monastery is a call to us all to never forget those wrongly imprisoned and cruelly treated anywhere in the world.
In "The Brothers Karamazov," the great 19th-century Russian author, and prison inmate, Feodor Dostoyevsky examined extreme psychological suffering, and then portrayed how the human spirit would prevail. For more than half of the 20th century, Alexsander Solzhenitsyn, both by his life and his writing, showed how truth and love do triumph over the worst the human condition might offer.
Amid the sound of infants crying in a Christmas church, we can look with childlike eyes into the great unknown of the 21st century and know that our common humanity will break any chains, a gift of love chime in any heart.
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