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.