My sister on T.S. Eliot + God


A moving blog post from my sister Mo over at Catholicism in the 21st Century:

Catholic in 21st Century - Mo
Friday I was reading a T.S. Eliot poem on-line, Little Gidding, searching for a quote I  wanted, and when the words of a friend's passing came to my ears the poem became  a prayer.

V
…With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this
Calling
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.


I have always struggled to understand Eliot but have not, until today, tried to understand him with critical commentaries and scholarly insights. But Friday, when I lost Kitty, the words themselves were enough, speaking of endings and beginnings and oneness. And I thought about revelation and scripture and wondered why the poetry was more consoling than the psalm or the gospel verse. And I wondered: isn't  God speaking in each and through each of these?

Writing that struggles to give voice to the mystery of life and death, give name to the Mystery of life and death, give meaning, give hope. Isn't that what scripture is, what poetry is? And I asked: is there poetry in the rituals of our faith? Does God speak through those, or only patriarchy and pomposity?  When did we lose the poetry in our sacraments? Perhaps when we replaced poetry with prescription, inspiration with instruction, prophecy with pomposity, mysticism with Magisterium.

Today, even with the reading of a critical commentary, I find myself drawn to the depths of spirituality in Eliot: his struggle, his inspiration, his insight. He was a flawed man and didn't lay claim to the Truth and yet in his images and allusions I find more Truth than in our doctrine. Once Truth is claimed, Truth is lost. The humility of the Christian poet is more illuminating than the arrogant protestations of the Catholic hierarch.

Friday, in the moment of loss, it was poetry that spoke to me of Hope, God, continuation, Oneness. And I feel no need to honor her further than with these words, in which Eliot references the medieval mystic, Julian of Norwich:


All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.


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