This is not how we thought our time would end. From application to admission to orientation, we imagined the cadence of our time at Berkeley. We expected three years with the new friends and colleagues we were making – an eternity.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, our expectations of this final semester have been changed, irrevocably, one by one. The loss of the small things hurts the most. Gathering in person for prayer and coffee and homemade treats. Laughing in living rooms in breaks during that last reading week. A final community dinner at the beloved Berkeley Center. One last hug on graduation day.
Rainer Maria Rilke wrote “Go to the Limits of Your Longing,” and I’ve found it comforting the past few days. Rilke assures us of God’s presence in uncertainty. Beauty and terror coexist. What should we do? God whispers to us: “Embody me.”
Even now, we are the church. Because the church has no organ, no Sunday morning time slot, no robe, no pew. The church is the body of God’s faithful, praying hip to hip or screen to screen, alone or with thousands. The church is with us in our grief at the losses we have already weathered. The church is with us in our fear of uncertainty.
This is not how we thought our time would end. But God speaks to each of us as God makes us. And God walks with us silently out of the night.
Go to the Limits of Your Longing
God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.
–Rainer Maria Rilke