Posted by: Andrew G | February 19, 2010

Ash Wednesday and Lent — T.S. Eliot Style



I’m not a practicing Christian, if that is the best description for the exercise. It seems appropriate, since the pursuit does need a lot of practice and carries a lot of lessons.

But all the same, I can’t deny the influence it has upon me. I just want to add to it’s ongoing conversation.

More devout Christians have entered into the serious time of Lent. This is a curious part of the calendar with ancient rituals such as fasting, abstinence (from the  eating of meatahem) and repentance for being human.


Now, each of these three activities has a purpose of course. Religious people wouldn’t just take part in a ritual for no reason, would they? That would be putting the ritual before the purpose. Unless, I guess, the ritual is the purpose. Hmm. Maybe I better let that lie.

But here’s a thought that came to me this week — aren’t all of these things, in a sense, modern fads now?


1. Fasting — there is a huge push right now for body cleansing, liquid diets, getting your inside metabolism balanced, etc. etc. There’s a new product or new book on the market every week designed to make your insides work better.

We are preparing our bodies inside and out through meditations and poultices and potions in efforts to have better bodies, minds and energy levels.

2. Abstinence from eating meat — Just this month I was introduced to the term ‘vaguetarianism‘. This is someone that wants to have an ethical diet, but isn’t necessarily militant about things. If something was cooked with chicken broth, well that’s ok. Is there egg in that? That’s all right, I’ll just have a little bit.

We are thinking about what we consume, and what responsibilities  and consequences are involved in our diets.

3. Repentance – in spite of all our efforts, we still don’t have the hang of things. We sort of do, but we still do funny things, and our vain actions kick up a lot of dust that keep us from seeing the world as it is. And so we have to put ourselves in check and make sure we’re cool with the world and others around us.

We are in constant symbiotic need with one another, and for that to work we have to forgive each other. From that point, we can get together to work on all the other stuff that needs our attention.

This has been a little more preachy than what I wanted, so I’m going to hand over the controls to T.S. Eliot. I’m more of a fan of Eliot’s The Waste Land, but it’s a little too dark and moody. And since he did write a poem entitled Ash Wednesday, well it’s just way too fitting.

I will only use the ending though.

And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices

In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices

And the weak spirit quickens to rebel

For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell

Quickens to recover

The cry of quail and the whirling plover

And the blind eye creates

The empty forms between the ivory gates

And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth


This is the time of tension between dying and birth

The place of solitude where three dreams cross

Between blue rocks

But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away

Let the other yew be shaken and reply.


Blessèd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,

Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood

Teach us to care and not to care

Teach us to sit still

Even among these rocks,

Our peace in His will

And even among these rocks

Sister, mother

And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,

Suffer me not to be separated


And let my cry come unto Thee.


Oh, ok I can’t help myself. I’m going to quote the last bits from The Waste Land as well.

Datta. Dayadvham. Damyata.

Shantih shantih shantih.



  1. Andrew: Good thinking around a time of repentance and reflection for Lent and Easter. I liked your use of Eliot the poet. I always liked the shorter version of our thoughts and feelings and aspirations being presented in poetry.

    I just watched Tiger Woods’ presentation to the public, to his friends and to his family. He revealed a very human spirit in his acceptance of failure and his total responsibility in all that has taken place in his life recently. He was not blaming others but making a full confess of shame and desire to be forgiven etc. etc.I think this is a good example for us all. I think this is the courage of his Buddhist faith which he grew up in. He quoted from the Buddhist teachings. I am sorry I can’t remember the exact words but it was about moving on and taking responsibilty for a new direction. I thought his speech was humble and sincere.

    It’s time to move on.

    • Quite good timing on his part!

      The local Buddhist group is having a get-together at the college coming up. Kind of a meet-n-greet and who-we-are kind of thing.

      Shannon and I are going. It’s got our curiosities up.

  2. Repent! Repent! A thousand times, sinner, REPENT!

    • Hi John,

      I really don’t know what to say.

      Thanks for poppin’ by?

  3. […] my past post on Ash Wednesday and T.S. Eliot, I highlighted three of the main themes of the Christian period of Lent. Once again, they […]

  4. […] my past post on Ash Wednesday and T.S. Eliot, I highlighted three of the main themes of the Christian period of Lent. Once again, they […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: