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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Little Gidding

(Old Bell Tower, 1905, by Edward Curtis,
1868-1952, American photographer)

Today is Ash Wednesday, in the Christian calendar the first day of Lent, the forty-day period of prayer, penance, and fasting in preparation for Easter. On this day, ashes are placed on the foreheads of the faithful as a reminder from Genesis 3:19 that “For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

(It is in the Anglican
Book of Common Prayer, not in the Bible, where we find those famous phrases, “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”)


If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.

~ T. S. Eliot (1888-1965), American-born English poet, playwright, and editor, and winner of the 1948 Nobel Prize in Literature

1 comment:

Charles Van Gorkom said...

"The Four Quartets" by T.S. Elliot is one of my favorites and well worth a read at least once per year. I have some of it memorized like scripture. And like Scripture, some of its cadences find their way into my writing. :-) T.S. Elliot was way more of a scholar than I am!