The winged staff with two intertwined snakes, or caduceus, has been an icon in American medicine since 1902. The image is rooted in ancient Greek and Roman mythological stories of healing and resurrection. In the midst of the pandemic, we likely have become more familiar with an alternative, a lone snake wrapped around a single scepter. This adaptation has potential origin in Sunday’s lectionary from Numbers and serves as the central emblem of the likes of the World Health Organization. As we lean into the one-year “anniversary” of COVID-19, these medicinal symbols have transcended mere imagery; they are known by real names of doctors, nurses, scientists, researchers, and the great cloud of witnesses we call emergency and frontline workers. We may also know such saints as neighbor or aunt, spouse or child. They have been pillars of hope who have kept our eyes up and out as we look for liberation from our individual grief and healing from collective pain.In Sunday’s Old Testament narrative, those who wandered the wilderness lost one of their own pillars. Aaron, their priestly comforter and interpreter of Moses’ works, had died. Their grief still raw, the people of Israel wondered if they would ever make it to the promised land or if they had been left for dead. Fleeing oppression in Egypt, they found themselves endlessly fighting new oppositions to their freedom. The deaths mounted and pleas for deliverance paralleled complaints against Moses and God, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness.”
They don’t publish
the good news.
The good news is published
Listen! You have the ears that can hear it.
Bow your head.
Listen to it.
Leave behind the world of sorrow
and get free.
The latest good news
is that you can do it. (“The Good News”)