Thursday, January 28, 2016

An Auschwitz anniversary

Already my thoughts are turning to Good Friday and the Three Hours - such a major and demanding liturgical task.  Various options have run through my mind but today a grim anniversary has struck a chord: it is the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp by Russian soldiers (27 January 1945).

I have ranged along my bookshelves and found the marvellous piece by my (long ago) mentor, the late Ulrich Simon, A Theology of Auschwitz. No mere academic work but written with the most disciplined passion. To pick it up again is to be transported briefly back past the noise of the Strand and the quiet of King's courtyard to the long high ceilinged room lined (of course) with books where he'd say "Read me what you have written for today."

Ulrich Simon
Simon's assessment of Auschwitz is still timely.  When we contemplate the horrors of the war in Syria and the obscenity that 62 individuals own as much as 3.5 billion of the poor, the evil that underlies that emblem of the holocaust is clearly still present.  As he says in his opening remarks: "Auschwitz belongs to the past, thank God.  But its multi-dimensional range of evil extends to the present and throws its shadow over the future.  It is for our purpose the comprehensive and realistic symbol of the greatest possible evil which still threatens mankind."

To contemplate Auschwitz must be to contemplate who we are and question equally the abstractions that theology can hide behind and the metaphysical void so typical of contemporary thought and life.  Choral Evensong must cut short these musings.

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