Looking Up

Shower, you heavens, from above, and let the skies rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation may spring up, and righteousness also. [Isaiah 45:8]

Before the 11th day of September, 2001, if something fell from the sky, it was snow, rain, or hail. If in the night we caught a flare at the corner of our eye, it was a shooting star, and we felt lucky to see it. If we noticed a silver glint above us, it was only a jet, and we might have wished we were on it, escaping for a rest.

In the days before 9/11, we did not think that planes could slice into offices, nor that looking up we would see souls hurtling a hundred stories to the dust of collapsed futures. We didn’t know that the sky could rain a million memos, a pair of shoes, a menu with the specials of the day, a man we met on Monday for a drink.

It’s not Advent yet, but it might help us today to remember that on the last Sunday of that season, our ancient forbears raised their eyes and sang to their own sorrowful sky (for there is no time without sorrow) this urgent and insistent prayer: Rorate caeli de super, et nubes pluant Justum—You heavens, open from above, that clouds may rain the Just One!

So many awful things fell down on 9/11 that for a long time afterwards we might not have dared look up, as these scriptures imply we must. Yet this is faith’s posture—heads lifted, eyes on the high horizon, hands outstretched, hearts open. This is the world’s most needed gesture—to point to every cloud of sorrow and declare, despite all evidence to the contrary, that from such skies, even from these, the longed-for healing comes.

So pray today that God will give us a new sky under which all creatures may live without fear of falling objects. Pray that what falls from the sky from now on will be only the grace of our Savior, in whom are joined the hopes and fears of all the years. Pray that under God’s new, safe sky we who are witnesses to sorrow and to mercy will co-create with God a new, safe, just, and holy earth.