Sunday, December 02, 2007

Eve of Advent: Nicholas Ferrar & T.S. Eliot

Tomorrow Advent begins and one of the small things I thought I would do would be a daily e-mail as I am able, since I am not able to be with you in person quite yet. It’s my favorite season of the Church Year for many reasons. Among them are the saints that fall within it. I’ve always thought of observing the saints’ days in the way that Gregory the Great said, “Making friends with the friends of God.”

Today on our calendar we remember a man named Nicholas Ferrar and his companions, his household, really, for he lived in an intentional community in post-reformation England. It was located at Little Gidding in Huntingdonsdhire. After his family’s ventures with the Virginia Company, he was ordained a deacon and set up his community which became known simply as “Little Gidding.” They followed the Book of Common Prayer daily services (including reading through the whole psalter every day), looked after the health of their neighbors and taught children. The community died soon after he did, in 1637. Monasticism was to remain in hibernation in Anglicanism then until the 19th century.

T.S. Eliot was one who was inspired by the story of Little Gidding and the last of his Four Quartets is named for it. Here’s the ending stanza (you can read the whole things by googling “Little Gidding”):

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.
Here, the intersection of the timeless moment
Is England and nowhere. Never and always.

May advent “tongue our speech with fire.”

No comments: