At one point in T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, the speaker has a rather Dantean meeting with one of his long-dead teachers. Of course, he is eager to know what his mentor has learned, what wisdom he can offer–but the teacher resists and instead asks forgiveness and urges the speaker adopt a posture of humility as well. All else, he says, is best forgotten; after all, he reminds his former pupil:
Last season’s fruit is eaten
And the fullfed beast shall kick the empty pail.
For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
2013 was a year where I often found myself struggling for language to confront the loss that came much too frequently. Or to fully express the joys. That’s probably true every year–but I felt it quite keenly over the past 12 months. Inarticulateness reminds us that words are as broken as we are–they are never sufficient unto the day.
So today I don’t want to offer many words. One of my students last semester structured a paper around a lovely, simple prayer–which she attributed to the Anglican clergyman Morris Maddocks. May it bless you as you begin 2014.
Lord, I offer you myself this day
For the work you want accomplished,
For the people you want me to meet,
For the word you want to be uttered,
For the silence you want to be kept.
For the places you want me to enter,
For the new ways you want pioneered.
Go with me along the way, Lord,
And enable me to realize your presence,
At all times and in all places,
My loving Lord Jesus Christ.