Thursday, November 05, 2009

T S Eliot's words make me a little giddy

T S Eliot's poem Little Gidding, the last of his Four Quartets, makes me breathless by its beauty and the simplicity with which he writes profound things.

This little hymn to the Holy Spirit captures well the paradoxes of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Gentle (a dove) and fiery, redeeming us from hellfire only in the consuming holy fire of his own presence. Terrifying and redeeming. For Love himself has worn our hell (and still bears the scald). The way is open, and we can walk in - to a new fire.

At a time when our church is being freshly called to apostolic passion - to burn with the Spirit's fire - I find these words inspiring. T S Eliot was part of a very different church to mine, but his poetry - and prophecy - speak at the level of the shared heart of all who love our Christ and his burning Spirit.

The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror

Of which the tongues declare

The one discharge from sin and error.

The only hope, or else despair

Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre -

To be redeemed from fire by fire.


Who then devised the torment? Love.

Love is the unfamiliar Name

Behind the hands that wove

The intolerable shirt of flame

Which human power cannot remove.

We only live, only suspire

Consumed by either fire or fire.

2 comments:

Simon said...

In a piece of beautiful serendipity, Little Gidding is of course the place where the first post reformation British religious community was formed. Drawing upon inspiration from the likes of the anabaptists and the monastics, they formed a community based upon prayer and even managed a 'round the clock' prayer rhythm for some time. Another community formed there in the 1980s, the place is now a house of retreat and prayer. Beautiful words, wonderful place.

normal said...

I'd like to go there one day...