A Poem A Day for Holy Week: East Coker

As I’ve mentioned before, I love Holy Week. It’s quite possibly my favorite week of the whole year. And yet, this year, my Holy Week is burgeoning with obligations and responsibilities and I’m feeling their pull away from quiet, from meditation, from preparation.

So this week, in place of posting a review, I’m going to offer a poem each day of the week. These are poems that I come back to each year at this time, and, read alongside the passion accounts in the Gospels, they invite me to consider the magnitude of this last week in Jesus’ life – for me, for the world, for all of creation, for the Godhead itself. With small children, an upcoming move, and the arrival of family, my husband and I may not get the chance to sit through all of the St Matthew Passion on Friday (which we did before our oldest daughter was born) – but I can sit with these poems, share them with my family around the dinner table, and meditate prayerfully upon them. I invite you to consider them as well.

The Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot

East Coker, IV

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we fell
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam’s, curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses and the smoke is briars.

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food;
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood–
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

excerpted from The Four Quartets, Harvest Books, 1971
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One thought on “A Poem A Day for Holy Week: East Coker

  1. Pingback: Poems for Good Friday | Lent & Beyond

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