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Psalm 78
. . . we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. .
so the next generation would know them . . . and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Canterbury Pilgrims

You could say, in a way, we are all making a pilgrimage to Canterbury this week.

Hope and Sydney are reading a wonderful retelling of The Canterbury Tales and Lane will be reading a picture book of "The Nun's Priest's Tale" entitled The Chanticleer and the Fox (by Barbara Cooney).

Why, again, did people in Chaucer's day make pilgrimages to Canterbury Cathedral, a journey which is the setting for the story-telling in Canterbury Tales? To pay homage to the tomb of Thomas à Becket.

As the kids were reading in their history about the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas à Becket, in 1170 by Henry II's knights, I decided to dust off my copy of Murder in the Cathedral by T. S. Eliot.

Eliot's short play, written in verse, was penned in the 1930s as fascism was rising in Europe. The young twentieth century, already scarred by the Great War, watched as seismic change roiled the Continent. State governments took unprecedented powers over their people and pressured the Church to capitulate. At least it seemed unprecedented. Eliot knew another historical moment, the murder of Becket, offered a parallel and by looking back he found a way to respond to the current events.

Eliot puts these words in Thomas's mouth:
We do not know very much of the future
Except that from generation to generation
The same things happen again and again.
Men learn little from others' experience.
But in the life of one man, never
The same time returns. Sever
The cord, shed the scale. Only 
The fool, fixed in his folly, may think
He can turn the wheel on which he turns.
Eliot's play ends with the conclusion that we need to acknowledge our need for God and that He alone can rule over us with justice and mercy.
Forgive us, O Lord, we acknowledge ourselves as type of the common man,
Of the men and women who shut the door and sit by the fire;
Who fear the blessing of God, the loneliness of the night of God, the surrender required, the deprivation inflicted;
Who fear the injustice of men less than the justice of God;
. . . We acknowledge our trespass, our weakness, our fault; we acknowledge
That the sin of the world is upon our heads; that the blood of the martyrs and the agony of the saints
Is upon our heads.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.

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