“It is dark, no moon, no light
Just darkness, a starless sky
The wind blows, the waves break
A single firefly passes by
Soon the firefly is gone
Leaving me in the darkest of nights.
The tiny fly made me anticipate
A sunrise with the finest of lights.”
This poem was posted by Aufie Zophy on his website in July. In it the author is in complete darkness, disturbed only by the natural movements of creation, wind, waves, and then the fleeting disturbance of a firefly.
I suspect that the one thing most of us have searched for in the darkness of recent months is the light of hope. Whatever our experiences have been of the coronavirus pandemic – and to name just a few possibilities: fear, anxiety, isolation, bereavement, illness – through them all most of us will have been searching for hope.
The newly appointed Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, expressed something of this when he described the Christian hope not as light at the end of the tunnel, but rather knowing that there is light with us and amidst us as we dwell in our present darkness. This is a very important distinction in articulating and understanding the idea of hope for a Christian.
In Zophy’s poem hope is anticipated within creation itself – the tiny firefly experienced as foreshadowing the dawn of the new day to come. What appeals to me is that that hope is given, known and experienced within the creation itself.
For all of us the hope of a vaccine to immunise us from the effects of the coronavirus is a tangible and real sign of hope, one which will release many of us from our present confinements, leading us back to freedom and the fullness of life. I am not a scientist, nor am I an immunologist. However, as a theologian what I do see in this news of a hope of a vaccine is the way in which God enables us to respond to the present sufferings that we experience. I believe that God has made us co-creators with him, and within that creation he has given us the resources and ingenuity to overcome the distortions and diseases which are also part of our world. This goes to the heart of the liberation and freedom which we have been given as human beings. Endowed by our creator we are given the same creative powers to imagine and originate a cure for our diseases from the very substances given to us in creation. Here, in our very experience there is a challenge to post-modern narratives of hopelessness or despair.