Eclipse: Passing Through Temporal

“Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy; that through being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal. That we finally lose not the things eternal.” (Anglican Book of Common Prayer).

In “A Slip of the Tongue,” his last Evensong meditation at Magdalene College Cambridge (1956), C.S. Lewis confesses to once accidentally reversing this prayer to not lose the temporal in the eternal.

Our trek through the temporal to the eternal is a risky one, like skiing a mountain under the threat of avalanche; things go wrong and we could be buried alive.

While we see glimpses of the eternal, the temporal seduces us, draws us back to things seen and tempts us to value them more than the unseen. In “Total Eclipse,” Annie Dillard vividly describes witnessing a glorious, otherworldly total eclipse only to return to the mundane at a local breakfast spot in Yakima. “One turns at last even from glory itself with a sigh of relief. From the depths of mystery, and even from the heights of splendor, we bounce back and hurry for the latitudes of home.”

Our pass through the temporal is a refining fire God uses to purge us of impurities, leaving only the essence of the spiritual, love. The gospels reveal Jesus sent here because of God’s love, announcing God’s love, demonstrating love and leaving it is the mark of his followers and the greatest commandment.

The great English poet W.H. Auden once wrote, “the first criterion of success in any human activity, the necessary preliminary, whether to scientific discovery or to artistic vision, is intensity of attention or, less pompously, love.”

In “Vision of Agape” he tells of a life-changing summer evening when “for the first time in my life I knew exactly¢â‚¬¦what it means to love one’s neighbor as oneself.”

On 911 my dad reminded me of Auden’s prescient poem “September 1, 1939.” Among the haunting lines written after Auden learned of Hitler’s intention to invade Poland.

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade¢â‚¬¦

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
who have never been happy or good¢â‚¬¦

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

These events drove him back to his Anglican roots and in 1940, influenced by the writing of Sƒ¸ren Kierkegaard and Reinhold Niebuhr he experienced a conversion and joined the Episcopalian Church. Just a few years earlier he admitted that though “I had constantly ignored and rejected the Church for sixteen years, the existence of churches and what went on in them had all the time been very important to me.”

As a homosexual, Auden’s trek through this life towards eternity brought tension with his faith. ” As recounted in Wikopedia, “He regarded his sexuality as a sin that he would continue to commit, sometimes alluding to Augustine’s prayer, “Make me chaste, Lord, but not just yet.”

Which brings me to an angst-ridden column by Al Mohler about “the End of the Spear.” In this newly released film, Chad Allen, a homosexual, plays the role of martyred missionary Nate Saint. Mohler is unable to get past the actor’s personal life and concludes, “it is hard, if not impossible, to suspend belief and see him as a missionary martyr for the Gospel.”

Could it be that in today’s “culture wars”, homosexuality is eclipsing Christian sensibilities? An eclipse is after all, “a partial or complete obscuring.” It seems to me that Auden’s poetry rings true and by most accounts “The End of the Spear” is a moving portrayal of the redemptive story that began with a murder and ended with the conversion of a tribal group. When you see Auden and Allen do you see first and foremost a homosexual, or a fellow human created in the image of God?

Here is what I understand. Our trek through the temporal to the eternal is a risky one and our pass through the temporal is a refining fire God uses to purge us of impurities, leaving only the essence of the spiritual, love.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in January 30, 2006 by | No Comments »

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