The slow, imperceptible march of goodness

good versus evil

God writes straight with crooked lines. That axiom sounds clever, but is there real truth or depth to it? asks Ron Rolheiser.

Can good ever really arise out of evil? Do love, truth, and justice ever work out through hatred, lies, and injustice? Do crooked lines really straighten?

The answer to those questions will invariably be negative when we look at the surface of things; but faith is never predicated on how things look on the surface. Faith, as Jim Wallis is fond of saying, doesn't base itself upon the evidence. Rather faith looks at the word of God and then waits for the evidence to change. It also sees that deeper, under the surface, error is often at the service of truth.

We see a poignant expression of this in a poem, Meditation, written by Raissa Maritain. The poem, powerful in itself, becomes more powerful as an expression of faith when we know its background. This wasn't a simple expression of faith in some abstract dark time. The dark times were particularly real to the poet.

Raissa, a convert to Roman Catholicism from Judaism, had always retained a deep love for and connection to her Jewish roots. She described herself as a Christian with a Jewish heart.

Now, in 1936 when she wrote this poem, she was witnessing the ascent of Adolph Hitler and Nazism in Europe, was hearing first-hand of the accounts of Jews, some of whom were personal friends, being killed in Europe, especially in Poland, and she felt herself, a Jew, threatened and was acquiring the necessary papers to flee France for the United States. Her world was crumpling, her friends were dying, and she was scurrying for her personal safety.

Evil was on the ascent and all the trusted political and social powers seemed to be either crushed by it or acquiescing to it. Within that crushing context, she wrote this poem:

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