Prayers for Remembrance and Peace

September 13, 2011

On September 11, Middle Church commemorated the 10th anniversary with an Interfaith Worship celebration that featured dance, music, and reflections (you can watch the full service here). Below is the prayer shared by Jocelyn Lieu, an elder at Middle Church. Our church was a sanctuary for so many that day, including Jocelyn and her then infant daughter. Continue to follow the Ribbons of Hope Project this year.

Then and Now: A Prayer for Remembrance and Peace
by Jocelyn Lieu

Second Avenue is almost deserted
No traffic
The few people we see are wearing masks, as if the city has been swept
     by plague
The doors to Middle Church stand open
Cool air surrounds us
The bitter smell that's everywhere hasn't penetrated the sanctuary
Beneath the altar a single candle burns
I close my eyes, then lay my head on folded arms
TV images replay in fast succession
Tiny blurs that are people fall past the gleaming façade
The North Tower folds in on itself
     and the world is covered in ashes
I am sobbing
My shoulders heave, but even in the fullness of grief I know that crying
     here isn't the same as crying at home
I have become a woman weeping in church, one of countless women
     who have wept in churches through the ages
One of many, a single mote
Peace comes over me
     then I feel them
The air is raked with the presence of the people who have died and are
I know you're here, I want to tell them

* * *

I know you're here
We are here now
     our voices raised
     in our many tongues
Our voices raised
     in song and prayer
We burn
     with sorrow
We burn
     with love
We burn
     grateful for your peace, oh God
grateful for your forgiveness
grateful to you for keeping alive
for helping us to keep alive
the fierce continual flame
of peace

Notes: The first section of this prayer-poem appeared, in a different form, in my 9/11 memoir What Isn't There (Nation/Basic Books, 2007). The "fierce continual flame" of peace is gratefully borrowed from Muriel Rukeyser' poem "Easter Eve 1945."

Prayer by Hussein Rashid
In the Name of God, the Compassionate the Merciful,

Oh Lord, we know you will not burden our souls with more than we can bear.
O God, O our Lord, You are peace,
and from You is peace,
and to You returns the peace,
O our Lord, give us life of peace,
and usher us in the abode of peace.
Blessed are You, our Lord, the Most High,
O the Lord of Majesty and Reverence.
O Lord, Light of the Heaven and the Earth,
Guide us by your light,
Light upon Light.
Place light in my heart,
light in my tongue,
light in my hearing,
light in my sight,
light behind me,
light in front of me,
light on my right,
light on my left,
light above me and light below me;
place light in my sinew,
in my flesh, in my blood, in my hair and in my skin;
place light in my soul and make light abundant for me;
make me light and grant me light.
It is only through your light we will be guided out of darkness,
out of hopelessness, out of despair.
Your light will heal us.
Your light will lead us.
Your light will bring us together.
Let us compete in good works,
that we may please you,
and be worthy of Your Light.

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