Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Poetry for Lent

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn

Those are the opening lines of T. S. Eliot's poem Ash Wednesday. I propose to take this poem and the Four Quartets as my texts for meditation this Lent.

Sometimes the Bible passages, especially for a former Baptist (and a very pious one at that), are simply too familiar. More to the point, last year I found them altogether too problematic. The patriarchal, violent bent of the Bible drove me to distraction the last time I tried the discipline of commenting each day during a violet season. I could not allegorize away the horror. Thus I have chosen to do something else this time around.

We approach Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent with words of seeming despair. "Because I do not hope" = the etymological meaning of "despair," a falling away from hope.

It is a classic starting point of any cycle of spiritual growth: the purgative stage when we are stripped, when we must let go, when our illusions are torn from us and we are left naked and defenseless, disoriented, lost, not knowing the way forward or even if there is a way forward.

It is probably a good place to start Lent. It is not our cleverness or our piety or our worthwhile deeds that will bring us to Easter; it is the action of God.

--the BB


Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Amen, dear Brother!

author said...

Thanks, Paul, for your insight. I am going to try to read each day.

author said...

oops that was me, Janine

susankay said...

Paul -- I treasure my one experience of this. I "did not hope" and had been doing all sorts of really "good" things to fix it. And God gave me the grace to realize that the things I was doing were not working -- no matter how worthy. So I was thrown back on God and God was graciously there to heal me.

The next day I stunned a lunch table of actuaries who asked why I was so different by telling them that it was the grace of God. At least one day that I witnessed. (and it shut up the actuaries)

Paul said...

I started to go to your profile, Janine, when I remembered it was you.