TS Eliot and the bombings in London

Yesterday many churches in London were full, after the bombings.

Yesterday also I was reading T. S. Eliot’s great poem Four Quartets. Eliot lived and wrote near Russell Square and Edgware Road where bombs went off this week. I was struck by the startling timeliness of some of his words, written during the bombing of London in 1941.

When there is distress of nations and perplexity
Whether on the shores of Asia, or in the Edgware Road.
Men’s curiosity searches past and future
And clings to that dimension. But to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint –

Saints, wrote Eliot, spend their lives in love and self-surrender, seeking the timeless in time. For most of us there is only the “unattended moment”, those fleeting times when we get hints and guesses of the meaning of things.

Yet, with “prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action” we may come to know that

The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is
Incarnation.

With profound Christian insight, Eliot calls us to know and make known the Word made flesh, the presence of our Lord even in the devastation of an Edgware Road – or Baghdad – or New York City – or our own neighborhoods.

(See T. S. Eliot The Four Quartets: The Dry Salvages Part V)

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