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The Church


This autumn day the new cross is set up

On the unfinished church, above the trees,

Bright as a new penny, tipping the tip

Of the elongated spire in the sunny breeze,

And is at ease;

Newcomer suddenly, calmly looking down

On this American university town.


Someone inside me sketches a cross--askew,

A child's--on seeing that stick crossed with a stick,

Some simple ancestor, perhaps, that knew,

Centuries ago when all were Catholic,

That this archaic trick

Brings to the heart and the fingers what was done

One spring day in Judea to Three in One;


When God and Man in more than love's embrace,

Far from their heaven and tumult died,

And the holy Dove fluttered above the place

Seeking its desolate nest in the broken side,

And Nature cried

To see heaven doff its glory to atone

For man, lest he should die in time, alone.


I think of the Church, that stretched magnificence

Housing the crib, the desert, and the tree,

And the good Lord who lived on poverty's pence

Among the fishermen of Galilee,

Courting mortality,

And schooled Himself to learn His human part:

A poor man skilled in dialectic art.


What reason for that splendour of blue and gold

For One so great and poor He was past all need?

What but impetuous love that could not hold

Its storm of spending and must scatter its seed

In blue and gold and deed,

And write its busy Books on Books of Days

To attempt and never touch the sum of praise.


I look at the church again, and yet again,

And think of those who house together in Hell,

Cooped by ingenious theological men

Expert to track the sour and musty smell

Of sins they know too well;

Until grown proud, they crib in rusty bars

The Love that moves the sun and the other stars.


Yet fortune to the new church, and may its door

Never be shut, or yawn in empty state

To daunt the poor in spirit, the always poor.

Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, may it wait

Here for its true estate.

All's still to do; roof, window and wall are bare.

I look, and do not doubt that He is there.


-- Edwin Muir (1887-1959)





Beautiful is the large church,

With stately arch andsteeple;

Neighborly is the small church,

With groups of friendly people;

Reverent is the old church,

With centuries of grace;

And a wooden church or a stone church

Can hold an altar place.

And whether it be a rich church

Or a poor church anywhere,

Truly it is a great church

If God is worshipped there.


-- (Author unknown)




Why Should Men Love the Church?


It is hard for those who have never known persecution,

And who have never known a Christian,

To believe these tales of Christian persecution.

It is hard for those who live near a Bank

To doubt the security of their money.

It is hard for those who live near a Police Station

To believe in the triumph of violence.

Do you think that the Faith has conquered the World

And that lions no longer need keepers?

Do you need to be told that whatever has been, can still be?

Do you need to be told that even such modest attainments

As you boast of in the way of polite society

Will hardly survive the Faith to which they owe their significance?

Men! polish your teeth on rising and retiring;

Women! polish your fingernails;

You polish the tooth of the dog and the talon of the cat.

Why should men love the Church? Why should they love her laws?

She tells them of Life and Death, and of all that they would forget.

She is tender where they would be hard, and hard where they would like to be soft.

She tells them of Evil and Sin, and other unpleasant facts.

They constantly try to escape

From the darkness outside and within

By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.

But the man that is will shadow

The man that pretends to be.

And the Son of Man is crucified always

And there shall be Martyrs and Saints.

And if blood of Martyrs is to flow on the steps

We must first build the steps;

And if the Temple is to be cast down

We must first build the Temple.


-- T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)



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