Posted by: Mark Nielsen | March 21, 2008

Lent, Iraq & the Struggle of Good and Evil

In honor of Jesus’ sacrifice on Good Friday — and on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war (in humble remembrance of those lost in Iraq on both sides of that struggle) — I present below a short quote from T.S. Eliot’s little-known gem Choruses from “The Rock”.

(Note: “The Rock” was a 1934 verse play, performed only a few times that I am aware of, as a fundraiser for the Church of England. But its choruses were later collected in several editions that gathered Eliot’s “minor poems”. Along with the equally powerful Ash Wednesday and Four Quartets, Choruses from The Rock beautifully lays out Eliot’s theology and his social conscience [he converted from an agnostic to an Anglican in 1927, and was very concerned about the rise of Hitler’s Germany in the 1930s]. Taken together, these three poems provide some of the most lasting images of Christ’s work in the world –and of the role of the church– that have ever, in my opinion, been captured in the English language.)

You’ll have to go to the library to get the whole text of these poems, as they are copyrighted and can’t be reproduced digitally without permission. So here’s just a little sample to ponder, over your Easter ham:

The world turns and the world changes,

But one thing does not change.

In all of my years, one thing does not change.

However you disguise it, this thing does not change:

The perpetual struggle of Good and Evil.

Forgetful, You neglect your shrines and churches;

The men you are in these times deride

What has been done of good, you find explanations

To satisfy the rational and enlightened mind.

Second, you neglect and belittle the desert.

The desert is not remote in southern tropics,

The desert is not only around the corner,

The desert is squeezed in the tube-train next to you,

The desert is in the heart of your brother.

The good man is the builder, if he build what is good.

I will show you the things that are now being done,

And some of the things that were long ago done,

That you may take heart. Make perfect your will.

Let me show you the work of the humble. Listen.


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