Wednesday, February 26, 2020 – Ash Wednesday

February 26, 2020  

Ash-Wednesday 2020

Our Savior’s La Crosse

“Ash Wednesday” verse 6 T. S. Eliot (1930)

Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn

Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dream crossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings

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.

I have discussed elements of T.S. Eliot’s Ash Wednesday poem in sermons before, but I always look at the first stanza. Today I’m looking at the sixth and final stanza, thinking about the meaning of this day, Ash Wednesday, for us as followers of Jesus.

Eliot wrote the poem Ash Wednesday in 1930 shortly after he converted to Anglicanism, or as we know it, the Episcopal faith. According to one scholar, Eliot was turning in his own life, turning away from the temptations of the world, towards God (Dr. Oliver Tearle, “A Short Analysis of T.S. Eliot’s Ash-Wednesday” found on interesting

Eliot wrote

Although I do not hope to turn again
          Although I do not hope
          Although I do not hope to turn

with the hope that he would not turn his focus, again, away from God.

In his poem Eliot described life:

This is the time of tension between dying and birth

and again he wrote that life is

The dream-crossed twilight between birth and dying

This week, I’ve been focused on Eliot’s notion of life as twilight.


Twilight is the time of day when there is “no intensity of night or day” (Tearle).

The day is not day. The day is not night. The day is twilight.

And so, Eliot wrote, is our lifetime of living.

Ash Wednesday demands we examine our twilight.

There is no purity to who we are. Our lives are stained by sin. In our confession today we will admit to God “that we have sinned by our own fault in thought, word and deed” (ELW Ash Wednesday “Confession”).

We have sinned by what we have done.

We have sinned by what we have left undone.

Again, the words point us toward the in-between, toward twilight.

Eliot wrote in his Ash Wednesday poem:

Teach us to sit still

We enter 40 days of Lent today, our time to set aside time to sit still. We sit:

among these rocks

knowing our need for God.

Let our cries come unto God.

We plea for God’s mercy, even as we know and we believe God’s mercy is everlasting.