Olga Alliluyeva, Joseph Stalin’s mother-in-law, was disillusioned by the emptiness of the new ideologies and in her latter years returned to her Russian Orthodox Christian faith. Of course, only fools from the old, naive world clung to such fairy tales. Humans had evolved to higher truths. They didn’t need God anymore.
While Stalin and the adults seemed to have ignored her as a simpleton, the grandchildren mocked her. “Tell us, Babushka? Where is your soul? Show us where your soul is.”
Olga answered quietly: “I can’t show you your soul, but you will know it when it aches.”
I can’t exactly explain Advent to you, but you will know it by the ache.
In Advent, we voice the ache. In Advent, we name how the sorrows have piled up, how the wars (despite all our prayers and policies) grind on, how despair closes its icy grip. The marriage is still dead. The child still hurts. We’re enraged. Or disillusioned. Or numb.
And beneath it all, steady burns the ache. Yet if we let this weary throb do its deep work, we may find ourselves praying alongside the prophet. God, rend the Heavens and come down. Rip the sky, God. Rip my heart. Do something in this aching world.
We lift our eyes. We lift our eyes, and we ache.