Everything has changed and yet nothing has changed. As I walked out of the front door on Friday morning I was surprised to hear a bird singing, oblivious to the sickening, terrifying consequences of the Brexit vote. Trees and flowers were in full summer mode, traffic flowed unconcernedly down the Woodstock Road and the Japanese food van was getting ready for its lunchtime trade. Cornmarket thronged with tourists and selfie sticks, and Mass was its usual timeless self. Nothing had changed... and yet everything had changed.
Since the early hours of Friday we've had three days of political and economic instability, anger, reproach and self-reproach, global shock waves and dire forecasts about the future of this country and many others. But far worse has been the naked racism and xenophobia: reports of threats and abuse hurled at immigrants, and euphoric Brits interviewed on TV, delighted to "have got our country back". The rhetoric of alienation and oppression not only won, it has created a sense of ugly empowerment. Something truly nasty has been unleashed by this Referendum.
In the midst of all this I changed my Facebook cover photo to this one. It seems to have struck a chord, as it has been liked by many of my friends and some of their friends too. Several have commented, instinctively linking the words on the cross to the precarious, ugly times in which we now live. The image shows the "underside" of the cross RSCJ receive when we make our perpetual vows; a pierced heart and the Latin words Spes Unica - one and only hope. As I wrote last year, I received a strong insight into this a few days before my profession: I shared something of this with our Superior General, and when she gave me my cross she deliberately turned it round so that the underside was outside. That is how I have always worn my cross ever since - our congregational motto close to me, our only hope facing the world.
In speaking of the ugliness and venom unleashed by this vote, many have used the analogy of Pandora's box: a sealed box (originally a jar) which early Greek mythology said Pandora opened despite being told not to. Out poured a stream of ghostly creatures - disease, poverty, misery, sadness, death, and all the evils of the world. The story goes that by the time Pandora slammed the lid shut it was too late, as everything had escaped except for one small thing that lay at the bottom – Hope. Pandora released Hope, which fluttered from the box, touching the wounds created by the evil which had been unleashed.
May Hope be with us now and in the time to come, touching and healing the many wounds which this Referendum has caused, helping us all - however we voted, regretful or not - to work for unity and the common good.