T.S. Eliot, one of the greatest and most theologically significant poets and playwrights of the 20th century, died on January 4, 1965. In Memoriam, here is a section from “Little Gidding” (the fourth quartet of Eliot’s Four Quartets).
The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
……Lies in the choice of pyre of pyre—
……To be redeemed from fire by fire.
Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
……We only live, only suspire
……Consumed by either fire or fire.
And the Church must be forever building, and always decaying,
…..and always being restored.
For every ill deed in the past we suffer the consequence:
For sloth, for avarice, gluttony, neglect of the Word of God,
For pride, for lechery, treachery, for every act of sin.
And of all that was done that was good, you have the inheritance.
For good and ill deeds belong to a man alone, when he stands
…..alone on the other side of death,
But here upon earth you have the reward of the good and ill that
…..was done by those who have gone before you.
And all that is ill you may repair if you walk together in humble
…..repentance, expiating the sins of your fathers;
And all that was good you must fight to keep with hearts as
…..devoted as those of your fathers who fought to gain it.
The Church must be forever building, for it is forever decaying
…..within and attacked from without;
For this is the law of life; and you must remember that while
…..there is time of prosperity
The people will neglect the Temple, and in time of adversity
…..they will decry it.
~T. S. Eliot, “Choruses from ‘The Rock'” (1934)