Surprise #1: Homecoming is new
Hiraeth is a Welsh word which just doesn’t have an English translation. My best definition is ‘a longing or homesickness for a home that no longer exists, or a home that has never been’.
Hiraeth is what I imagine many of the exiles would have felt, returning from Babylon to a home that no longer looked or functioned the same. Whilst the built environment would have been transformed, more significantly, their worship, community, every day life would also have felt so different.
There are such strong echoes of this for us. As we come out of our exile in the form of lockdown, whilst our built environment might not have changed, we may rightly be apprehensive about whether our forms of worship, community, every day life will ever look the same again.
We need to lament this. But we also need to channel our longing into the second part of hiraeth<font face="HelveticaNeue">: ‘the longing for a home that has never been’; that looks forwards not backwards - in anticipation of Haggai’s surprise message that ‘the latter glory of the house will be greater than the former’.</font>
In <em>Little Gidding</em>, TS Eliot says ‘the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time’. It’s about seeing that whilst the landscape might be familiar, the Godscape is being transformed because He is doing a new thing; he calls us to see and join in.
So embrace this Welsh concept of hiraeth: lament for the home and life that is unlikely to feel like it did: but long for the new one which shall surprise you as you open your eyes and behold it; the one whose glory, says Haggai, will be greater than the former.