Teach Us To Sit Still.

Today is Ash Wednesday and nothing is more fitting than to share with you the poem of T.S. Eliot’s long poem “Ash Wednesday” written in 1927.

The last three lines of this stanza struck me personally.

Ash Wednesday by T. S. Eliot


Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

Sit Still

Teach us to sit still.  This is exactly what I need for the next 40 days to re-learn how to sit still again. I have fallen out of habit on reflecting, meditating, and focusing my attention to the ritual of Lent. It is a time of praying and fasting. I may have done a little bit of the ritual last year but my heart wasn’t in it. Fortunately, it’s a lifetime process and I can do it all over again even though it’s not lent.

The last two lines “Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death,” reminded me of the time when I was meditating on the Hail Mary prayer. I skipped this part because I truly believe that I did not need someone praying for me, I did not believe that I am a sinner and I was young then far from death.

I am now in the autumn of my life, imperfect human being, full of ego, and have hurt other people in the process. As I recited the Hail Mary repeatedly, this is where the mystery lies on prayer and meditation, when one day I came to a full realization that I do need prayers, I am a sinner and I will die.

Just like Eliot, as I thrash and flux in a life of restlessness, I will continue to pray to God to have mercy on me.

20 thoughts on “Teach Us To Sit Still.

  1. We do all need prayer and forgiveness. Faith is a constant process. None of us are perfect Perpetua. Our faith waxes and wanes most often when we are young and foolish. With age comes wisdom or so they say. God bless darling. You are an inspiration!

    • Teresa, you are so wise with your words. I suppose the deeper my faith becomes, prayerful life is more solid and forgiveness will become a given. Can’t wait to get older. Perpetua.

  2. Thank you for reminding me of ‘Ash Wednesday’. Such a great poem. ‘Teach us to stand still.” It harkens back to Milton’s Ode to his Blindness – ‘They also serve who only stand and wait.’

  3. When I was young I was invincible, bulletproof,
    Always in motion…sinning and not caring …
    Age has conquered me, made me vulnerable
    For all of the moments spent aloof… now
    Sit I must … no more sinning … only despairing
    To turn again, impossible

    Isn’t age wonderful , 20-20 hindsight … Love and hugs…ME and the Boss

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