Day 24: Wednesday

Wednesday: Reflect (Pray), part II.

Presentation
The Presentation of Christ in the Temple, Andrea Mantegna, 1460, Staatliche Museen, Berlin
Today, before we explore another theme from the Nunc Dimittis, we will stop along our journey and read a poem by one of the great poets of Anglican spirituality, TS Eliot (1888-1965). He was one of the major Christian poets of the 20th century His poem Ash Wednesday (1930), was written to mark his baptism and confirmation as an Anglican three years earlier in 1927. The Song of Simeon is one of four poems by Eliot published between 1927 and 1930, known as the Ariel Poems. In Journey of The Magi and A Song for Simeon, Eliot shows how he persisted on his spiritual pilgrimage. He was baptised and confirmed in the Church of England on 29 June 1927. Journey of the Magi was published two months later, in August 1927, and a few months later Faber, for whom he worked, published A Song for Simeon  as part of a series of Christmas booklets. In all, Eliot wrote four poems for the series.

 

Read the poem slowly and carefully twice. Many consider it a kind of prelude to Simeon’s song. As you read, consider what Eliot is saying about his spiritual journey. The poem can be read as a song for Simeon to sing, or as a song to be sung for Simeon. We can imagine ourselves listening to Simeon’s prophetic voice, or imagine the voice of a poet singing on Simeon’s behalf or in his honor at a later age, from a viewpoint and with insights denied to Simeon himself. After you have read it, think about what it might be saying to you about your own spiritual journey.

 

A Song for Simeon (TS Eliot)

 

Lord, the Roman hyacinths are blooming in bowls and

The winter sun creeps by the snow hills;

The stubborn season had made stand.

My life is light, waiting for the death wind,

Like a feather on the back of my hand.

Dust in sunlight and memory in corners

Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.

 

Grant us thy peace.

I have walked many years in this city,

Kept faith and fast, provided for the poor,

Have given and taken honour and ease.

There went never any rejected from my door.

Who shall remember my house, where shall live my children’s children

When the time of sorrow is come?

They will take to the goat’s path, and the fox’s home,

Fleeing from the foreign faces and the foreign swords.

 

Before the time of cords and scourges and lamentation

Grant us thy peace.

Before the stations of the mountain of desolation,

Before the certain hour of maternal sorrow,

Now at this birth season of decease,

Let the Infant, the still unspeaking and unspoken Word,

Grant Israel’s consolation

To one who has eighty years and no to-morrow.

 

According to thy word.

They shall praise Thee and suffer in every generation

With glory and derision,

Light upon light, mounting the saints’ stair.

Not for me the martyrdom, the ecstasy of thought and prayer,

Not for me the ultimate vision.

Grant me thy peace.

(And a sword shall pierce thy heart,

Thine also).

I am tired with my own life and the lives of those after me,

I am dying in my own death and the deaths of those after me.

Let thy servant depart,

Having seen thy salvation.
“At the very end of the poem, we seem to have arrived at the start of Nunc Dimittis. All that we have read so far is now seen in a new light, as a prelude to the canticle. The poet, now baptised, has the hope of a greater hope, having seen his salvation. He is tired of his former life, there is consolation as derision turns to glory. Baptised into the death of Christ, he has been born into new life.”  –Canon Patrick Comerford, Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute
  • How has this poem helped you understand your own life in a new light?  Your spiritual journey?
  • Like the poet, do you have the hope of a greater hope, having seen your salvation for the here and now? For the life you live today?  How does this relate to what you learned from the first two themes of the Nunc Dimittis: the light of salvation which is for all people?
  • What then, will you do with this glorious new life?
Prayer:  Offer a prayer, using the words at the end of the poem, and ask God to show you how to use his glorious gift of salvation for the life of the world.