The Most Trying Time of All

Although you could probably make a good argument that this post is more appropriate for January 7th, almost no one outside a small group of insiders could tell you why.

So, in praxis, what follows is most appropriate today.

It’s the final lines of W.H. Auden’s “For the Time Being,” a long drama that he called “A Christmas Oratorio.” First published in 1945, it has become a Christmas tradition for some, including me.

And it has been the inspiration for all sorts of other artistic dreaming including, among other things, this title.

The passage I’m posting the below is the very end, the last lines, of this long Christmas drama. The main speaker is the “Narrator,” who in my head is something akin to the narrator of “Our Town.”

I’ll just post it now with little more comment. Except to say that, IMHO, there really are no more perfect words for the day.

From W.H. Auden’s “For the Time Being”

“NARRATOR:
Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes
Some have got broken and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school.

There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted quite unsuccessfully
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers.

Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual

Vision and failed

To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility,
Once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep his word for long.

The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off.

But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid’s geometry
And Newton’s mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this.

To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.

For the innocent children who whispered so excitedly
Outside the locked door where they knew the presents to be
Grew up when it opened. Now, recollecting that moment
We can repress the joy, but the guilt remains conscious;

Remembering the stable where for once in our lives
Everything became a You and nothing was an It.
And craving the sensation but ignoring the cause,
We look round for something, no matter what, to inhibit
Our self -reflection, and the obvious thing for that purpose
Would be some great suffering.

So, once we have met the Son,
We are tempted ever after to pray to the Father;
“Lead us into temptation and evil for our sake.”

They will come, all right, don’t worry; probably in a form
That we do not expect, and certainly with a force
More dreadful than we can imagine.

In the meantime
There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair,
Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem
From insignificance.
The happy morning is over,
The night of agony still to come; the time is noon:
When the Spirit must practise his scales of rejoicing
Without even a hostile audience, and the Soul endure
A silence that is neither for nor against her faith
That God’s Will will he done, that, in spite of her prayers,
God will cheat no one, not even the world of its triumph.

CHORUS:
He is is Way.
Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;
You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.
He is the Truth.
Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;
You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.
He is the Life.
Love Him in the World of the Flesh;
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.”

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He is Senior Pastor of Kessler Park UMC United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. Previously, he was pastor at Northaven UMC in Dallas for seventeen years. Eric loves to write on topics of spirituality, social justice, music/art and politics. The entries on this blog reflect that diversity of interests. His passion for social justice goes beyond mere words. He’s been arrested at the White House, defending immigrants and “The Dreamers,” and he’s officiated at same sex weddings in his churches, in defiance of what some believe is Methodist teaching. Eric is an avid blogger and published author, and 2017 recipient of the prestigeous Kuchling Humanitarian Award from Dallas’ Black Tie Dinner. (Human Rights Campaign) Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He’s a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named “best judge” by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County, and is currently the longest service district judge in that district. She was re-elected for a fourth term in 2018. They have the world’s best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. Find links to Eric’s music-related websites, at the top of this site’s navigation menu.

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