More Spiritual Reflections

Spiritual Reflections


An Empty Place at the Table

Teresa Osborne
October 14, 2009

Remarks for:  The Empty Place at the Table

Thank you Sister for the opportunity to join you here this evening and to offer this brief reflection. 

We gather here in this beautiful, sacred space.   To pause in order to grieve the loss of and to celebrate the lives of those killed in acts of domestic violence.  

Because of the work and dedication of the staff and board of directors of the Women’s Resource Center, The Empty Place at the Table provides the community with a visual reminder of the deadliness of domestic violence. 

Yet, for those of us who embrace the mission of The Women’s Resource Center, for those who mourn the loss of mothers and daughters, sisters and nieces, neighbors and friends….for all victims of domestic violence, for those who need to be comforted, for those who seek justice, for those who believe with their very heart and soul that we can end domestic violence in our community, the message of The Empty Place at the Table is deeper.   It is more powerful.   It is indeed spiritual.     

While outside, the cold air makes it feel like the season is winter, the calendar reminds us that we are in the transitional season of autumn.   When we pull out our favorite warm sweaters, when we enjoy ripening pumpkins and autumn scents, and when we bear witness to the glorious colors and shades of gold and red leaves on the trees.  We know, however that as each day passes we will begin to watch those leaves flutter to the ground.   This season reminds us that nature’s cycles are mirrored in our own lives.  

For autumn reminds us that everything is temporary.  Listen anew to the words of Scripture that we just heard proclaimed from Jeremiah:  “My joy is gone…grief is upon me….my heart is sick…I hurt….I mourn… dismay has taken hold of me….summer is ended…the harvest is past”   

Be reminded….nature’s cycles are mirrored in our own lives.   Our lives are temporary.   Everything is temporary.   We have experienced the budding of life in Spring.   The beautiful flowerings of Summer.   And now, the leaves fall.   And soon, bare branches will remind us of the fleeting nature of all things.    

Autumn is a time for letting go.   To release things that have been a burden.   It is for these reasons that this season hosts the autumn equinox.   When day and night are of equal length.   And, as we brace for the darkness of winter, we pause and are reminded of the need to balance the light and darkness within each of us.    

It is for these reasons that I believe the month of October serves as Domestic Violence Awareness Month and it is the reason why we gather here this evening.    

Domestic violence does not discriminate.   It crosses all ethnic, racial, economic and social lines.  It often takes place in the shadows…out of public view…perhaps worse yet….it is ignored….brushed aside….until tragedy occurs…until a family is changed forever….until life is lost….and darkness seemingly prevails. 

But….here, we pause .   We light the paschal candle.   We pray for victims of domestic violence.   We beg for justice.  Grasp for hope.   Search for peace.   We fear the dark, and seek the light.

There is a wonderful teaching story, told by a Buddhist monk…about accepting situations where we are left in the dark without answers.   “Once, when a Zen Master was still a student, he visited his Teacher just before sundown.   They sat on the floor of the Teacher’s hut , casually drinking tea and discussing Zen for hours.    At last, the Teacher said to the student that it was about time for the student to head home.   The student agreed.   He bowed to his teacher.  Walked to the door, and stopped, commenting on the complete darkness outside.   The Teacher lit his lantern to give to the student.  And as the Teacher was handing the lit lantern to him, just as the student was about to take the lamp from the Teacher’s hands (a lamp that would light his way home), the Teacher blew out the flame.   The student suddenly knew everything there was to know.”

“Sometimes…..the only remedy for our situation… is to begin from a point of absolute darkness.”   

The sudden turning off of a light.  The quick extinguishing of a lantern. Each of these has certain similarities. Each can seem abrupt.   Each is transition making.   Both leave us in a different world.  For in darkness, we are always on our own. 

Domestic violence is the epitome of darkness.  It is a national epidemic shrouded in empty silence for many complicated reasons…shame…fear of retribution….fear of blame…fear of the darkness.   We must break the cycle.  We must heed the words recently spoken by President Barack Obama who challenged our country when he said    “…we must fight to bring domestic violence out of the darkness of isolation…. and in to the light of justice…” 

Let us commit again to spending the remaining seasons…the next 364 days (until we gather again to recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month) working to balance the darkness and the light.   Just as we began this evening’s vigil in prayer reciting the Litany of Those Who Mourn…..we now turn from the darkness of death…to the hope of resurrection….comforting and consoling one another….building up our resiliency and our resources….so to that together….a difference is made…..justice is realized….and our dream that full human rights…in particular the right to be treated with dignity and respect….is provided to all women and children in our community…in our country…in our world….becomes a reality.   Let us be the light.