Office of the Dead: Vespers for the Living and the Dead of Virginia Tech
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation,
We the living here pray this Office of the Dead for the living and the dead of Virginia Tech. May the splendid light of our Risen Lord shine through your loss and bring you all to his peace.
Just barely two weeks beyond our celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord, we are confronted with the heart-rending news that a young man, lost to all reason and swallowed by despair, has killed thirty-three men and women at his university. What seems at first a distant act of criminal insanity quickly becomes a tragedy played against the joyous drama of Easter, and we cannot help but think that each shot fired, each plea for help, each cry for a reason why betrays our trust, turns us opposed to the emptied tomb, and begs us to wade—just a toe! just to the ankles!—begs us to wade angrily into the same despair that dragged this young man to murder. It has happened again. Evil wears a face and dares us to answer in kind! And what do we say? How do we answer this horror?
We know that our Lord is risen from the tomb! Fewer than two weeks ago, in this church, we raised our alleluias in praise of Christ who defeated death in the grave and joined his Father in heaven. We renewed our baptismal vows, welcomed new brothers and sisters into the Body, and heard over and over again in prayer and song that nothing binds us to death; nothing holds us against despair; nothing, no one defeats us—not sin, not the grave, nothing of this world has the authority to catch and hold the hearts of those who blind the darkness with God’s joy and silences the voices of despair with hope—hope sung or shouted or even whispered! Our answer to death then was: alleluia! Amen! He is risen!
But now, right now: do those alleluias sound weak? Do they echo back from
And what will we do now? Tighten security. Screen students more carefully. Offer better counseling. Put up more cameras. Pass stronger laws, better enforcement. No doubt, we will do all these things. But will we do the one thing, the only thing that will defy this spirit of Dark Loss, that will deny this horror its despairing power; will we do the one thing, the only thing that will matter to eternity? Will we HOPE more and better, will we LOVE more and better, will we TRUST more and better? Will we do the only thing that will deny evil another face? Will we carry those joyous Easter alleluias with us? Put them on our lips? Wear them on our sleeves? Will we bring them closer to our hearts than our own names? Eveready to shout: He is risen!
We know how to answer despair’s seduction and death’s sting. What do we here in