Lay Anglicana, the unofficial voice of the laity throughout the Anglican Communion.
This is the place to share news and views from the pews.

Get involved ...

Posts Tagged "T S Eliot":

Ann Lewin, T S Eliot and Lancelot Andrewes on The Epiphany

AL 001

 It is a multi-layered story, as many of these birth narratives are, and three layers in particular draw our attention. First there is the nature of the visitors: Magi, astronomers from further EAst, led by a star to find a newly born king. They are often called Wise Men, but if we think about the nature of wisdom as the Bible describes it, that may not be the most suitable adjective to describe them. They were certainly clever, there is no doubt that they were well-versed in the study of the stars. But perhaps if they had been wiser they would have done a little research into the nature of the King this new-born child would replace….

There is nothing sentimental about our journey to make our offering. T S Eliot wrote memorably about the journey the Magi had ‘A cold coming we had of it‘, he began. He borrowed the words from a sermon preached by Lancelot Andrewes, one-time Dean of Westminster and Bishop of Chichester and Winchester, on Christmas Day 1622, in the presence of King James I. Andrewes said of the wise men:

A cold coming they had of it at this time of the year, just the worst time of the year to take a journey, and especially a long journey. The ways deep, the weather sharp, the days short, the sun farthest off, the very dead of winter. Venimus…. ‘we are come’…And these difficulties they overcome, of a wearisome, irksome, troublesome, dangerous, unseasonable journey, and all for this they came. And came it cheerfully, and quickly, as appeareth by the speed they made. It was but vidimus venimus, with them ‘they saw’ and ‘they came’ no sooner saw but they set out presently…they took all these pains, made all this haste that they might be here to worship Him with all the possible speed they could. Sorry for nothing so much as that they could not be there soon enough, with the very first, to do it even this day, the day of His birth…And we, what should we have done? Sure these men of the East will rise in judgement against the men of the West, that is with us, and their faith against ours in this point. With them it was but ‘vidimus venimus‘, with us it would have been but veniemus (we will come) at the most. Our fashion is to see and see again before we stir a foot, specially if it be to the worship of Christ. Come such a journey at such a time? No, but fairly have put it off to the spring of the year, till the days longer, and the ways fairer, and the weather warmer, till better travelling to Christ. Our Epiphany would sure have fallen in Easter week at the soonest.

Ann Lewin concludes her chapter:
“We are challenged by the Epiphany story to think about how willing we are to set out on the journey of offering ourselves to God.

What are the gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh that we have as individuals or groups/churches to offer to God in loving our neighbours?

What obstacles do we have to overcome in order to make our offering?

Come freshly to us now, Lord God,
and as we offer you our lives,
renew in us your gifts….

The Hippopotamus and the True Church: T S Eliot

The Hippopotamus

The broad-backed hippopotamus

Rests on his belly in the mud;

Although he seems so firm to us

He is merely flesh and blood.


Flesh and blood is weak and frail,

Susceptible to nervous shock;

While the true church can never fail

For it is based upon a rock.


The hippo’s feeble steps may err

In compassing material ends,

While the True Church need never stir

To gather in its dividends.


The ‘potamus can never reach

The mango on the mango-tree;

But fruits of pomegranate and peach

Refresh the Church from over sea.


At mating time the hippo’s voice

Betrays inflexions hoarse and odd,

But every week we hear rejoice

The Church, at being one with God.


The hippopotamus’s day

Is passed in sleep; at night he hunts;

God works in a mysterious way –

The church can sleep and feed at once


I saw the ‘potamus take wing

Ascending from the damp savannas,

And quiring angels round him sing

The praise of God, in loud hosannas.


Blood of the Lamb shall wash him clean

And him shall heavenly arms enfold,

Among the saints he shall be seen

Performing on a harp of gold.


He shall be washed as white as snow,

By all martyr’d virgins kist,

While the True Church remains below

Wrapt in old miasmal mist.


Thomas Stearns Eliot


I am indebted to Chris Fewings for sending me off to read this poem. It seemed as good a meditation as any on our Church on which to ponder at Epiphany.

 “The Hippopotamus” is reprinted from Poems. T.S. Eliot. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1920.

The illustration is via Wikimedia by H. Barrison
We rely on donations to keep this website running.