The Small Song of Hope
BY KELLY SWAN | February 20, 2023
Brothers and sisters:
Do you not know that you are the temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
Last week, my mother, teenager, and I saw the touring cast of Hadestown perform in Cleveland. The show dives into many themes—greed and isolation, poverty, the climate crisis, jealousy, ownership. But Sunday’s second reading resonated with one theme in particular—the inherent dignity, uniqueness, and humanity of each person.
Through the course of the performance, we learn that Hades, the king of the underworld, is building a wall, designed exclusively to keep his workers in the underworld, and to keep “poverty” out. The opposite of poverty in this scenario is work. Essentially, each worker has sold their soul to Hades for the benefit of warmth, food, security—but at the cost of a loss of memory of their identity to become a part of his industrial machine, which is framed as “freedom.”
Eurydice, one of the four primary characters in the story, has signed away her life to Hades in a moment of fear, in a winter storm. Her beloved, Orpheus, who was preoccupied with his idealism in the moment of Eurydice’s departure to Hadestown, walks into the underworld to find her.
His arrival is a turning point for the workers—as Orpheus challenges Hades’ ownership of Eurydice, the workers awaken to their own humanity. “Is it true?” they sing. “Why do we turn away when our brother is bleeding? Why do we build the wall and then call it freedom? If we’re free, tell me when we can stand with our fellow man.”
The story goes on as the musical continues—it is a story of hope, but not necessarily of happy endings.
After curtain call, the cast sings: Some birds sing when the sun shines bright / Our praise is not for them / But the ones who sing in the dead of night / We raise our cups to them
Paul’s words to the Corinthians today remind me that this is our call. To be people of hope, even as we know the story we participate in may at times be a heartbreaking story. To plant seeds, even in the dark of night, in winter, without guarantee that we’ll see the fruits of our labor. This is the work of justice—at its core, to sing the small song of hope that reminds ourselves and all those we encounter, as Orpheus did, of our shared humanity and dignity—that the Spirit of God dwells within each of us.
Editor’s Note: After today’s reflection, the Rise Up series will pause for the Lenten season and will resume after Easter. Please join us for our daily Lenten series, Lent 2023: Finding God in the Chaos, by subscribing here.
Kelly Swan has worked for the Ignatian Solidarity Network since 2016, first as communications director, and now as director of advancement. She grew up in West Virginia and is a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University. Kelly has worked in parish social ministry, child and family advocacy, community education and organizing, and publishing. She lives in the Cleveland, Ohio area with her children.
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