The news from Brussels this morning, the terrible terrorist attacks once more striking in a neighbouring capital city, made it a sobering beginning to the day. Though we live with a constant threat of terrorism it’s still deeply shocking when these events occur. There’s nothing that really prepares you for the pain that these attacks cause – and our prayers are with all those who were caught up in the attacks in Belgium and not least those injured, those who died and those who survived physically unharmed but will be emotionally scarred.
I decided to write this blog as a way of reflecting on my own personal journey through Holy Week. I thought it would be interesting for me – and I hope for others – to see what happened and how this, in any way, is illuminated by what we are remembering in these days. When you decide to do some more purposeful, intentional reflection on the day its interesting what connections you begin to make. So it may look a bit contrived to you, but genuinely it isn’t. The thing is that we had arranged, some time ago, that this morning an officer from the Counter Terrorism branch of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) would join us at the meeting of the Senior Management Team to update us on the terrorist threat that we face at the Cathedral.
The specific reason for wanting to do this was to help the Chapter make the decision as to whether or not we should take out specific Terrorism Insurance. This would cost us half as much again as our usual insurance costs us – so an extra £20k. So before we said yes, or no, we wanted help with assessing the risk.
The presentation was really helpful but especially as we gathered, ourselves and the members of the MPS, knowing about what was happening in Belgium, not so far away. It was a sobering beginning and made it even more real. At the end of the presentation we were shown a short video that has been produced to help people understand what to do in a terrorist attack. You can watch it on YouTube – it’s called ‘Stay Safe’ and promotes a three stage response – ‘Run Hide Tell’ It’s very simple and was powerfully portrayed in the short film. We’re going to make sure that the volunteer groups who help us look after what goes on io the Cathedral, the Stewards, the Welcomers and others – benefit from this presentation.
Those words though – ‘Run Hide Tell’ – took me by surprise to part of the passion narrative and became even more powerful for me. What I was suddenly reminded of was that little detail in St Mark’s Gospel
A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked. (Mark 14.51-52)
I love the little details that you get in the Gospels, events, people, that you could almost skim over but which have significance. The events in the Garden of Gethsemane, of which this is part, are so monumental, so terrifying that a nameless onlooker escaping could be overlooked. But it is there, he is there, not to be ignored.
There was terror all around in that garden as the soldiers and the priests arrived out of the shadows and Judas stepped forward and planted the kiss on the cheek of Jesus which would give him away. In an instant what had been a place of peaceful prayer became the place of terror and Jesus was in the middle of it. Swords were out, an ear cut off, Jesus was grabbed as though he were a terrorist himself, brutally treated and it was all witnessed from the sidelines by a young man.
The tradition is that this was Mark, the evangelist, the one who mentions the event, the only one who mentions the event, in his gospel. Perhaps he was the only would who would know. His presence and departure were lost in the dark and confusion except to him. And it was the officer from the Counter Terrorist branch who shed light on what happened.
As the writer of the book Ecclesiastes so rightly says ‘There is nothing new under the sun’ (Ecclesiastes 1.9). The young man’s reaction is the one we are being taught to adopt. In that moment of terror he ran, he needed to save himself. Like so many of the disciples, he hid, perhaps with them in the Upper Room, waiting for the safe time to emerge. Then he told, he spread the Good News as an evangelist, told his story alongside the Jesus story. Run, hide, tell.
The horror and terror of the Garden of Gethsemane is being replicated in so many places – and Jesus is there in the streets of Brussels as he was there in the garden on a hillside, as he will be, as he is, in our own place of terror.
enfold in your love
those who face terror today
for you faced terror then
and defeated it
by your cross.