Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
Yesterday my wife and I had the first of a two part vaccination against the Covid- 19 virus. The next part is due in 21 days’ time. A light at last in the darkness? Certainly the last nine months or so have seemed like a journey wandering in an unforgiving desert with no end in sight. So many people around the world have suffered and some have died from the virus, whilst many have lost their jobs, their source of income, perhaps even their homes as a result of its effects. It has seemed that there is no end to the trouble besetting us; and still it is not over, there is so much more to do before this pandemic can be considered under control.
The other day I came across a poem, written by T S Eliot in 1919, part of which I would like to share with you:
Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
In his notes Eliot tell us that “The following lines were stimulated by the account of one of the Antarctic expeditions (I forget which, but I think one of Shackleton's): it was related that the party of explorers, at the extremity of their strength, had the constant delusion that there was one more member than could actually be counted.” The expedition to which he refers was, I think, the 1914-1916 British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition that Sir Ernest Shackleton led. He planned to cross Antarctica from a base on the Weddell Sea to McMurdo Sound, via the South Pole. However, his ship, the Endurance, was trapped in ice off the Caird coast and drifted for 10 months before being crushed in the pack ice. It took another nine months wandering in the Antarctic before his party reached safety, thankfully without any member losing his life.
Can you relate these lines to today’s events? Do you feel that, even in these dark uncertain times, there is ‘a third who walks always beside you’? Can you recognise in Eliot’s words: ‘In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’? (John 1:4-5)
Many years ago God made a promise to the Israelites as they wandered in the desert of uncertainty: ‘It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you nor forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed'. (Deuteronomy 31:8) In two days’ time we will celebrate the birth of Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, reasserting that promise to all mankind. Let us hold on to that promise and give thanks to Almighty God.
May I thank you all for your support and encouragement during this past year and wish you a happy, safe and blessed Christmas.
I am an Authorised Local Preacher in an Anglo Catholic parish church, in the Diocese of Essex UK