Apr 7, 2022
Holy Week, the week of Christ’s suffering and death, has a special name this year – Ukraine. Let Caryll Houselander explain why that’s so:
“For us, this war is the passion of Christ. There is no need now to dwell on its cruelty … To the natural eye it seems that out of this war nothing could possibly result but bitterness, hatred and ruin; and indeed, nothing else could result from it were it not for one person – Jesus Christ, our Lord.”
These are the opening words of Houselander’s remarkable book This War Is the Passion. Written as bombs rained down on London during the Nazi blitz, the book first appeared in 1941, and the war Houselander had in mind was naturally World War II, then at a point when all seemed lost. But her words still stand, as I’m sure she intended, not just for that war but for every war in every time and place.
Houselander, one of the finest spiritual writers of the last – or any – century, wrote within a theological tradition that begins with Saint Paul and understands the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ in a real, not merely metaphorical, sense. Viewed this way, the experience of human suffering is seen as being a form of sharing in the passion of Christ. And understood like that, the war in Ukraine, with all its suffering and horror, also is a participation in Jesus’ suffering.