“The Church must be forever building”

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. April 2019

In this the third and final post from T.S. Eliot’s Choruses from the Rock we continue to hear Eliot wrestle with the question -Can faith itself hold up? Today we hear a few lines from Part 2 of this 10 part poem. To read the whole poem please use the link https://www.arak29.am/PDF_PPT/6-Literature/Eliot/Chtherock_eng.pdf

And the Church must be forever building, and always decaying, and always being restored.
For every ill deed in the past we suffer the consequence:
For sloth, for avarice, gluttony, neglect of the Word of GOD ,
For pride, for lechery, treachery, for every act of sin.
And of all that was done that was good, you have the inheritance.
For good and ill deeds belong to a man alone, when he stands alone on the other side of death,

But here upon earth you have the reward of the good and ill that was done by those who have gone before you.
And all that is ill you may repair if you walk together in humble repentance, expiating the sins of your fathers;
And all that was good you must fight to keep with hearts as devoted as those of your fathers who fought to gain it.
The Church must be forever building, for it is forever decaying within and attacked from without;

For this is the law of life; and you must remember that while there is time of prosperity
The people will neglect the Temple, and in time of adversity they will decry it.

What life have you if you have not life together?
There is no life that is not in community,
And no community not lived in praise of GOD .
Even the anchorite who meditates alone,
For whom the days and nights repeat the praise of GOD ,
Prays for the Church, the Body of Christ incarnate.
And now you live dispersed on ribbon roads,
And no man knows or cares who is his neighbour
Unless his neighbour makes too much
But all dash to and fro in motor cars,
Familiar with the roads and settled nowhere.
Nor does the family even move about together,
But every son would have his motor cycle,
And daughters ride away on casual pillions.

Much to cast down, much to build, much to restore;
Let the work not delay, time and the arm not waste;
Let the clay be dug from the pit, let the saw cut the stone,
Let the fire not be quenched in the forge.

Holy God,
hear my prayer for the life and witness of the Church.
Keep it true to the gospel,
Keep it focused on the faith,
Keep it energized in its mission. Amen.

One thought on ““The Church must be forever building”

  1. It has taken me a long time to read the poem in its entirety, and I found it to be labor intensive, which I believe was part of Eliot’s intention. Thankfully he ends in what seems to be a prayerful mode, with the sentiment on light, allowing the reader some relief and reassurance. I admire the visionary nature of the poem. What he described in 1934 could be similarly described today.

    Among the lines of the poem that spoke to me in today’s terms: First, “Most will expect dividends.” If this doesn’t describe humanity today, I don’t know what does. Seems that many want something for nothing, rewards, recognitions, attention, interest from others in all one does no matter how insignificant or common.

    Next, “…with the sword in one hand and the trowel in the other.” It doesn’t take much thought to recognize this characteristic in our culture. The gun in the loose holster is all too common, literally and figuratively.

    Last, “Do you need to be told that whatever has been, can still be?” This is a tough one as it seems that we romanticize the good old days gone by, always long for something better, and often believe that everything would be better if only …

    While I’m certain that my simplistic interpretations don’t answer the question of whether our faith can hold up, I’m reminded of a friend who described her three teenage boys to me, during a discussion we were having about the type of school environment that might be appropriate for each. She said, “Well, one uses his faith every day and very well. One uses it when he thinks it might be helpful in getting out of a jam. One seems not to care or to have none at all!” I’m guessing that this pretty such sums up the human population today.

    Thanks, Edward. I enjoyed this series.


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