Lost awhile

It’s a couple of months, probably, since I was in a church on a Sunday. (Not for lack of interest, certainly. Regular failure to get my act together enough, on the weekend, so as to act from my own felt interest — that’d probably be the summary judgment. But unavoidable circumstance has had a role in there.) This morning I made it to an early service. I was aware of course, in back of my mind somewhere, that the Pope is in the UK on tour for a few days, during which he is to declare Newman beatified. But I’m in my own corner of the globe and wasn’t thinking about the UK this morning. The priest presiding where I was visiting, then, at first caught me a little off guard with his rambling reflection (unconnected to the readings & more or less in lieu of homily) on the occasion, which he’d watched taking place a few hours earlier, and on Newman’s influence on popes in his time & since, on various bishops of Baltimore, &c.

Early in his talk he trotted out the famous verses written by Newman while young & a rising Anglican — as I can imagine hundreds of other priests all over are also doing today. And I had to be, and am, grateful for it. I don’t know them well — so no sentimental attachment — and find it easy to slight them as the sort of thing that gets icon standing in Christian culture for iffy-to-bad reasons, reasons quite apart from artistic merit & so on. Yet I am in that very position where very subjective words like these, and some little anecdote about the author to go with them, do good for me because of little that has to do with any deft poetic capture of things or elicited moment of (re)discovery, much or everything to do with the turn back around to myself & my frustrations in interpreting my own experience. The week I’ve just come off, in fact, was one particularly suited to bring home how unpleasant the last six or seven years have mostly been for me — a fresh taste of the old disappointments pressing in, the periods of self-torment, &c. &c. Really, this morning was a good time for me to be read a mediocre verse prayer for knowing the light I think I’m after, for capability to be led, for not losing heart if indeed I’m being led. And a good day, in any event, to make it to a church.

Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
      Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home —
      Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene — one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor pray’d that Thou
      Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path, but now
      Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
      Will lead me on,
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
      The night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

3 Replies to “Lost awhile”

  1. Yes — very interesting. And a good example of things I find it hard to know my capacity finally to embrace.

    Many thanks for that link Darrell. Sharp insight there, I think. I ought to know more about the author.

  2. Higgins’ written work is well worth perusing. I first heard him lecture a room full of Mennonites some 20 years ago, and I’ve done what I can to pay attention ever since.

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