Lindsey Weishar — To surrender oneself: Holy Week, Ukraine, and in daily life
My Vocation is Love / Lindsey Weishar
“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)
This is a verse we’ve heard so often that perhaps its profundity is hard to fathom. But this verse is incredibly important not only because we are approaching Holy Week, and Jesus’ own modeling of this love, but because surrender is often so difficult for us.
In the past couple of weeks, more than one friend has mentioned the power of praying the “Surrender Novena,” composed by Padre Pio’s spiritual director, Don Dolindo, and based on the words Christ spoke to him. Each day’s prayer ends with the same refrain (to be repeated 10 times so it sinks in): “O Jesus, I surrender myself to You, take care of everything!” I like how the prayers for each day speak into our desire for control. This part of the prayer for Day 5 is personally resonant:
And when I must lead you on a path different from the one you see, I will prepare you; I will carry you in my arms; I will let you find yourself, like children who have fallen asleep in their mother’s arms, on the other bank of the river. What troubles you and hurts you immensely are your reason, your thoughts and worry, and your desire at all costs to deal with what afflicts you.
This “casting of our cares upon the Lord” (cf. 1 Peter 5:7) may feel quite opposed to our self-reliant ways of being. And yet, in surrender, I allow Christ to draw nearer to me.
CONSECRATION OF UKRAINE, RUSSIA
When Pope Francis consecrated Ukraine and Russia to Mary’s Immaculate Heart on the feast of the Annunciation, I was touched by the surrender within that prayer. There was acknowledgement that peace is a supernatural gift, and that humans alone cannot procure it. The first paragraph of the prayer bears some resonance to the bit of the “Surrender Novena” shared above:
O Mary, Mother of God and our mother, in this time of trial we turn to you. As our mother, you love us and know us: No concern of our hearts is hidden from you. Mother of mercy, how often we have experienced your watchful care and your peaceful presence! You never cease to guide us to Jesus, the prince of peace.
War divides, wounds. Many of us continue to wonder, “What can we do?” And among the things we do, I pray we surrender.
WHAT ABOUT ZELENSKYY, CHURCHILL?
I think upon Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s, words from early March: “We will fight to the end. We will not give up and we will not lose. We will fight until the end at sea, in the air. We will continue fighting for our land, whatever the cost.”
I think further back to Winston Churchill who said something similar during World War II: “We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing-grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender!”
And at first, it may seem like our call to be surrendered stands in opposition to these leaders’ words. But almost paradoxically, the two are intertwined. Perhaps the determination of the Churchills and Zelenskyys of the world not to surrender is tied up in the fact that they were / are already surrendered to something — to their country, to their people, to God. And in this surrender, they risked their lives.
TRUE SURRENDER IS NOT PASSIVE
Though politics unfortunately muddies the waters of crises so easily, whatever our opinion about the war in the Ukraine, our call is to become ever more surrendered to Him. Pope Francis prayed into this surrender to Christ when he called out to Mary: “At this dark hour, help us and grant us your comfort. Say to us once more: ‘Am I not here, I who am your Mother?’ You are able to untie the knots of our hearts and of our times.”
And so, dear reader, as you pray for peace in the world, for peace in Ukraine, pray also for peace within your own heart where a battle is always being waged; pray for peace in your families and communities. The prayer for peace is tied up in surrender, and the more surrendered we are, the more deeply we are able to respond to the world and her sorrows. “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Mt. 5:4), Jesus tells us. May our mourning lead us not to a position of self-protective crouch but to arms stretched open like his to embrace the family member, the neighbor, the stranger, the whole world. True surrender is not passive; true surrender images Christ.
LINDSEY WEISHAR is a poet, freelance writer, and native of Champaign who has a master of fine arts in creative writing from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She is executive assistant to the president at Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas. Write to her at email@example.com.