Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Redeem the time, redeem the dream

Who walked between the violet and the violet
Who walked between
The various ranks of varied green
Going in white and blue, in Mary's colour,
Talking of trivial things
In ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour
Who moved among the others as they walked,
Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs

Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand
In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary's colour,
Sovegna vos

Here are the years that walk between, bearing
Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring
One who moves in the time between sleep and waking, wearing

White light folded, sheathing about her, folded.
The new years walk, restoring
Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring
With a new verse the ancient rhyme. Redeem
The time. Redeem
The unread vision in the higher dream
While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.

The silent sister veiled in white and blue
Between the yews, behind the garden god,
Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed but spoke no word

But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down
Redeem the time, redeem the dream
The token of the word unheard, unspoken

Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew

And after this our exile
--T. S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday

In our spiritual transformation we pass through times of penance, walking between violet and violet, and come to a paradise, a garden with various ranks of varied green. There are fountains and springs, the rocks are cool and the sand firm (desert transformed into a place of refreshment).

I love the phrase "restoring/ Through a bright cloud of tears." Years ago I read Alexander Schmemann's Great Lent and encountered there the phrase "bright sadness" and this "bright cloud of tears" brings that to mind. Schmemann writes that "On the one hand, a certain quiet sadness permeates the service: vestments are dark, the services are longer than usual and more monotonous, there is almost no movement." He goes on to say that "then we begin to realize that this very length and monotony are needed if we are to experience the secret and at first unnoticeable 'action' of the service in us. Little by little we begin to understand, or rather to feel, that this sadness is indeed 'bright,' that a mysterious transformation is about to take place in us. It is as if we were reaching a place to which the noises and the fuss of life, of the street, of all that which usually fills our days and even nights, have no access--a place where they have no power. All that which seemed so tremendously important to us as to fill our mind, that state of anxiety which has virtually become our second nature, disappear somewhere and we begin to feel free, light and happy. It is not the noisy and superficial happiness which comes and goes twenty times a day and is so fragile and fugitive; it is a deep happiness which comes not from a single and particular reason but from our soul having, in the words of Dostoevsky, touched 'another world.' And that which it has touched is made up of light and peace and joy, of an inexpressible trust."

In this might we experience "ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour," a profound awareness of the world's ills and our own failures that is tempered by letting go of our anxiety and, perhaps most importantly, of our own self-centeredness? The great reality, after all, is not my sin but God's goodness. And it is not about ME but about all of us, all creation.

If I fear letting go, perhaps I can remind myself that the ancient rhyme I wish not to lose will be restored "with a new verse."

The time. Redeem
The unread vision in the higher dream

Redeem the time, redeem the dream
The token of the word unheard, unspoken

We come to the silent word, or more properly, Word.

Beyond our exile, beyond our desert pilgrimage, beyond our violet season, is this: new life.

The Word that spoke creation into being is still speaking and creation continues.

--the BB


susankay said...


it's margaret said...

I like this. Thank you.

The Cunning Runt said...

Your way with words leaves my spirit quivering.

Thank you for taking the time to affect me so.

Paul said...

I thank you all.

This is fun. A bit of work, but fun.

author said...

Love it, you just inspired me to order the Schmemann. "For the Life of the World" is one of the best books I've ever read.

Paul said...

"For the life of the world" is an awesome book that shifted my awareness too, Janine. It made me more conscious than I had ever been that if we are sent by Jesus as the Father sent him, then all we do is supposed to be for the life of the world. NOT, I hasten to clarify, for the life of the church. For the world. I have never forgotten that.

author said...

It seems to me that just as the sabbath was made for man, *we* (or rather the Spirit working through us) are supposed to define the Church, not the other way around.