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The Simplicity of Hands - A reflection by Chris McDonnell


Only a few days ago, the very fabric of land-locked Nepal, its southern boundary shared with India and its northern edge touched by the Himalaya, was shaken by a huge earthquake. Damage was extensive over a wide area and daily the reported loss of life rose with each news bulletin.

Governments and individuals have been helping the recovery operation with goods and gifts, with sympathy and understanding. The image that heads this posting is of a Nepalese man offering prayer for his country in Seattle, a long way from home. (photo Lindsey Wasson / The Seattle Times)

The hand-touching greeting, with a gentle bow towards another, is characteristic of the East. The joined hands as a sign of prayer, is also very familiar to the Christian Church. It says so much about the person who makes it, a non-threatening gesture of touching palms, open, hiding nothing and showing no malice. It is a gesture that can be made in a close, face to face meeting, or across a crowded space, once eye contact has been made. I often use it at the Sign of Peace when at Mass at my local abbey of Benedictine nuns as I acknowledge them across the choir.

Within a few minutes of the Sign of Peace, our cupped, open hands are extended to receive the gift of Eucharist, a gladdening gesture of thanks.

So many stories are told about the way we use our hands, not all of them with good intent. Through provocative gesture and physical violence the story of love, of compassion, can be diminished and lost, defiance and protest can take precedence.

In the midst of world news, the desperate hands of the rescuers continue to pull at the broken remains of homes and temples, shops and markets, seeking survivors.

Those who cannot physically undertake the recovery task, join their hands in silent prayer for those who can. Be they Hindu or Muslim, Christian or Buddhist, their prayerful action is shared in the face of great tragedy. Let us join with them.




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