November 26th, 2015
It would be his last poem.
Shortly before his death in 1973, W.H. Auden penned “A Thanksgiving,” a reflection upon all his tutors–both those from antiquity he’d read and those from whom he’d learned firsthand.
Two he mentions were part of that famous literary group of fellow Christians known as the Inklings: Charles Williams and C.S. Lewis. (Another of the Inklings, J.R.R. Tolkien, transformed Auden’s sense of vocation the first time he heard the famed philologist do a reading from his translation of Beowulf.)
Listen to–or better, read aloud Auden’s panegyric to all those who fundamentally shaped his intellectual and spiritual life:
A Thanksgiving, by W. H. Auden
When pre-pubescent I felt
that moorlands and woodlands were sacred:
people seemed rather profane.
Thus, when I started to verse,
I presently sat at the feet of
Hardy and Thomas and Frost.
Falling in love altered that,
now Someone, at least, was important:
Yeats was a help, so was Graves.
Then, without warning, the whole
Economy suddenly crumbled:
there, to instruct me, was Brecht.
Finally, hair-raising things
that Hitler and Stalin were doing
forced me to think about God.
Why was I sure they were wrong?
Wild Kierkegaard, Williams and Lewis
guided me back to belief.
Now, as I mellow in years
and home in a bountiful landscape,
Nature allures me again.
Who are the tutors I need?
Well, Horace, adroitest of makers,
beeking in Tivoli, and
Goethe, devoted to stones,
who guessed that — he never could prove
Newton led science astray.
Fondly I ponder You all:
without You I couldn’t have managed
even my weakest of lines.
You might say the poet’s predisposition to notice and note so much that the rest of us tend to overlook makes his ilk commensurately inclined to gratitude. Even those who commit to no transcendent theory of reality acknowledge the salutary effects of choosing to be grateful. But whether you’re prompted to give thanks because you can’t help it, or because you think you can’t but be helped by it, what if on this day you gave thanks as Auden did: for those persons, living and dead, known from a distance or up close, who had a hand in shaping you? If some of God’s greatest gifts to us are the people whom He’s sent our way, then we could do worse on this day that champions a virtue we renounce to our peril than pause and express our gratitude for the loves that came in the form of lives.
Any good story deserves something of an introduction.
The Book of Ruth, though for reasons that will in time become clear it might’ve been better to entitle it “Naomi’s Story,” is our food this Advent. Its parallels with the Story to which it points and from which it finds its greater meaning make Ruth a fitting subject for meditating upon the Incarnation. Think of it as a midwife for birthing hope in us anew.
We’ve showcased these folks’ work before. They do us yet another favor in acquainting us with our season’s focus.
Meanwhile be aware of our other Advent times together–including our Liturgy in Blue this Wednesday, our “Crock-pot Cook-off” December 20th at the Lafferty’s (Parents of children, we’ll have something delightful for the kids among us this year!), and our Christmas Eve Service.
Finally, a quick word from our Mercy Cohort about a plan to bless others during December:
Dear fellow CtKers,
Advent Season has arrived.On one level, it is a season of busyness and plans and get-togethers and struggles. But on a level just as real, it is the season that recalls the greatest historical moment and holy mystery: God was manifested in the flesh (1 Tim. 3:16). Into the midst of a broken and breaking, sinful and sinning, oppressed and oppressing, and weary and wearying world God came down. He gave Himself, and He gave of Himself (Phil. 2:6-8) that He might call to Himself and redeem for Himself a people who did not seek Him or receive Him (Jn. 1:11) and who had no claim upon Him. That is how “God so loved the world” (Jn. 3:16). Advent is the climax of God’s faithful presence with His people.
As a church with a mission to be faithfully present, we remember that our presence is modeled after His. As a people who have received the inestimable gift of the Christ, we remember that we love because we are loved. And we have an opportunity to be faithfully present and extend that love to others in our community this Advent season by partnering with the Desoto Food Pantry,
The Desoto Food Pantry has identified families that would benefit from receiving a ‘basket’ of food. The size of the basket will be appropriate to the family size determined by the Food Pantry. Each basket should be sufficient to meet the needs of the family for a week. Sizes of baskets are small, medium, large, and super large. You can opt to use laundry baskets, fruit (banana/apple) boxes, or other basket-like containers that are sturdy enough to carry the contents safely.
So what do we put inside? Common items include: Spaghetti sauce, soup, rice (1 or 2lb bags), canned meat, canned pasta with meat (ravioli, spaghetti with meatballs, etc.), cereal, saltine crackers, boxed macaroni and cheese, toothpaste, shampoo, laundry detergent. Because of the season, it would also be good to include fresh fruit like oranges or tangerines in each basket.
The Lord has been especially abundant to many of us in the CtK family. Please, prayerfully consider how you can be part of this united effort to serve those in genuine need. If you choose to prepare a basket, we will collect all baskets by December 20th. If you simply want to provide materials for a basket, we will have bins in which you can place your donations, and the MC will put the baskets together later.
Thank you for helping CtK be faithfully present to our community this Advent season.
The Mercy Cohort ———— for more information, please, write to [email protected]