Ash-Wednesday

eliotToday, on this first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, it seems only appropriate to reflect on the words of my favorite poet, T.S. Eliot. The marvelous, genius, insightful Mr. Eliot is a beautiful reminder that God can take someone broken and searching and use him for His glory. As much as I love Eliot’s pre-conversion poetry (such as The Waste-Land and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”), his post-conversion poetry is a beautiful testament to His faith in Christ and his belief that literature can be the purest form of art. His poem “Ash-Wednesday,” published in 1930, may be the best example I know of these beliefs. It’s often difficult to understand and obtuse, but packed full of Truth. Eliot struggled with moving from utter faithlessness to salvation, and that tension and struggle is beautifully memorialized in this poem. You can read the entire poem at the link above [or find a delightful collection of his complete works and spend an afternoon with Mr. Eliot :)]. But I shall henceforth include my favorite excerpts from “Ash-Wednesday.”

From part 1:

“Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice
And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And I pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain”

From part 2:

“Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.
There is no life in them. As I am forgotten
And would be forgotten, so I would forget
Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose. And God said
Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only
The wind will listen.”

From part 5 (perhaps my favorite verse in all of literature):

“If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.”

From part 6, the concluding lines of the poem:

“Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.”

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One thought on “Ash-Wednesday

  1. andrewlewis says:

    Very nice entry. Thanks for posting this.

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