Friday, 24 September 2010

Vast deep silence

I have continued with the practice of Lectio Divina, using T S Eliot's Four Quartets, every day since my previous post about it. Here are some notes I made after some of the sessions.

17-9-10 (Stanzas 3 & 4 of Burnt Norton)
I've realised that these poems are about the experience of contemplative prayer - descending into the vast deep silence beneath everything. Reading them has also inspired some poetry in response.

Stillness and dancing
Centre and circumference
the stillness is everywhere
and the dance is everywhere
source welling up
eternally from the depths
the music to which we dance
the air we breathe
the life that lives us.

18-9-10 (Stanza 5 of Burnt Norton)

Stanza 5 seems to be about apophatic and paradoxical theology.

O living waters rise in me
Refresh the desert places
that cry out for rain.

23-9-10 (Stanza 4, East Coker)

This stanza uses Christian imagery to talk about the wounded healer archetype.

We are constantly slaying the image of God in each other:
That one walks too tall, looks too free and happy.
Each of us is wounded and inflicts wounds in our turn.
The only way to break free is to accept ourselves:
To feel the constant outpouring of divine love
From the depths of silence.
We must descend again and again into the abyss
To rescue the forgotten parts of ourselves.

24-9-10 (Stanza 5, East Coker)

The last stanza of East Coker seems to be about coinherence, the idea that we are all members of each other; but also that the now contains both the past and the future: "a lifetime burning in every moment".

The whole of East Coker is more melancholy than Burnt Norton - perhaps it represents the descent into the abyss, the dark night of the soul. But it concludes on a hopeful note: "We must be still and still moving / Into another intensity / For a further union, a deeper communion..."

I am finding it really helpful to read the poems as slowly as this (one stanza a day) and reflect on their meaning. Four Quartets is not the easiest poem to understand, but the meaning becomes more apparent after reflection.

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