Fellow blogger Colin Markham from Kent, England, is featured in today’s post, below. Colin blogs at Fellowship of St. Peter – Christian spirituality and fellowship.
We have just finished a whirlwind of a year, 2020, where we could hardly catch our breath to process the immediate crisis, of many, let alone reflect on the bigger picture.
And yet, at this transition to the next year, usually a time, as Colin notes, to “meditate, to recollect, to gather our thoughts in the light of life and eternity” we are still called to do so lest we neglect the value and richness of spiritual enlightenment and renewal.
Take a minute.
Here’s a little visual inspiration to go with, from Colin’s neck of the global woods:
Standing on the threshold
by Colin Markham
Below I offer some lines from T. S. Eliot as a meditation on several themes to mark the turn of the year – the tide of time, the human condition, and the Epiphany – the revelation of the Word who is Jesus Christ (Jn 1.1-5, 9-14;
1 Jn 1.1-4).
As we enter the new year we are witnesses to extraordinary events. This is traditionally a time for celebration, for hope, for new beginnings, new ventures. Yet never before has our vision of the future been so obscured, our room for manoeuvre so restricted. We live in fear of deadly contagion, we witness the erosion of economies, we are constantly aware of wars and rumours of wars. A pall envelopes mankind, a cloud of doubt and despair. But there is nothing like a crisis to concentrate minds. Evil must be over-come by good, or else it will overwhelm us with fear. Despondency must be dispelled by revelation, or else we live in a fog of unknowing. Here is a golden opportunity to dwell on motivations and habits, on spiritual enlightenment for inner and outer renewal of mind and actions. This is a time to meditate, to recollect, to gather our thoughts in the light of life and eternity. For this we must look beyond human sophistries to the One who holds eternity in the palm of His hand (see Col 1.15-20; Jas 1.16-18; Pss 8, 33.4-8; Pr 8.22-31; Wis 7.15-30).
Christ came into the world unobtrusively. Divinity dwelt among us in human flesh to be fully identified with humanity. He came in humility and poverty to bring divine love closer to the heart of mankind and, through the cross, redemption. His arrival was not accompanied by a fanfare fit for a conqueror; He came as one who looked to the poor in spirit (Mt 5.3), those who symbolised the universal yearning for truth and integrity in a world fallen into moral decay. He could not be identified with the wielders of power who too often misused their position, but with the humble of the land, those prepared to show humility, modesty, justice, mercy, purity, peace, and courage in the face of persecution – all the virtues He set out in the Beatitudes and which He taught in various ways among the people. The works of evil stand in stark contrast to the fruits of righteousness – all the antitheses of the Beatitudes: pride, greed, injustice, cruelty, immorality, aggression and persecution – these have stained the annals of history and remain among us in abundance (see Mt 5.1-12; Gal 5.13-26).
The sublime teachings of Christ have passed to us through the inspired word of God. In the early days of Christianity they were transmitted to the world through apostolic missions bringing the good news of peace to those far away and to those near at hand. Down through the centuries all of humanity has been offered in the one Spirit a way to come to the Father (Jn 14.6; Eph 2.17-18; cf. Is 57.19; Ps 72.17-19). In the Old Testament the word of the Lord was personified as a messenger who does not return until he has discharged his mission (Is 55.9-11). In the New Testament, Christ, the Word, is the manifestation, knowledge and essence of God (Jn 1.1-5; Heb 1.1-4). In Christ, humanity encounters God. In Christ, humanity has been redeemed, forgiven, set free through moral and spiritual regeneration in hearts open without reservation to the presence and action of God (Jn 8.12; Eph 1.17-23).
From The Rock, by T. S. Eliot
The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven,
The Hunter with his dogs pursues his circuit.
O perpetual revolution of configured stars,
O perpetual recurrence of determined seasons,
O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying!
The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to GOD.
Where is the life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Bring us farther from God and nearer to the Dust…
The world turns and the world changes,
But one thing does not change.
In all of my years, one thing does not change.
However you disguise it, this thing does not change:
The perpetual struggle of Good and Evil.
Forgetful, you neglect your shrines and churches;
The men you are in these times deride
What has been done of good, you find explanations.
To satisfy the rational and enlightened mind.
Second, you neglect and belittle the desert.
The desert is not remote in southern tropics,
The desert is not only around the corner,
The desert is squeezed in the tube-train next to you,
The desert is in the heart of your brother.
The good man is the builder, if he build what is good.
I will show you the things that are now being done,
And some of the things that were long ago done,
That you may take heart. Make perfect your will.
Let me show you the work of the humble.
From T. S. Eliot, Collected poems, 1909-1962. Faber & Faber, 1963, pp. 151, 153