Destiny waits in the hands of God, not in the Hands of Statesmen

Destiny waits in the hands of God, not in the hands of statesmen . . .

The Murder In The Cathedral by T. S. Eliot, American and then British modernist poet, is my personal favorite 20th century play and full of encouraging truth for the growing Christian believer. It is a diatribe against the excesses of Modernism and a lamentation of the state of Western culture.

Eliot’s play concerns the assassination of Archbishop Samuel Becket by Henry II.  The play begins with a Chorus singing, foreshadowing the coming violence. The rest of the play concerns four temptations (roughly paralleling the temptation of Christ).

Every tempter offers Becket something that he desires–but he will have to disobey the Lord and his own conscience.

The first tempter offers long life. He makes an existential appeal that is quite persuasive.

Take a friend’s advice. Leave well alone,

Or your goose may be cooked and eaten to the bone.

The second offers power, riches and fame.

To set down the great, protect the poor,

Beneath the throne of God can man do more?

The third tempter suggests a coalition with the barons and a chance to resist the King. This –compromise– temptation is very appealing.  He even uses biblical language!

For us, Church favour would be an advantage,

Blessing of Pope powerful protection

In the fight for liberty. You, my Lord,

In being with us, would fight a good stroke

 Finally, he is urged to seek martyrdom!  The very thing he may do is thrown in his face as a selfish act!

 You hold the keys of heaven and hell.

Power to bind and loose : bind, Thomas, bind,

King and bishop under your heel.

King, emperor, bishop, baron, king:

 Becket responds to all of the tempters and specifically addresses the immoral suggestions of the fourth tempter at the end of the first act:

Now is my way clear, now is the meaning plain:

Temptation shall not come in this kind again.

The last temptation is the greatest treason:

To do the right deed for the wrong reason.

A martyrdom is never the design of man;

for the true martyr is he who has become the instrument of God,

who has lost his will in the will of God,

not lost it but found it,

for he has found freedom in submission to God.

Becket continues.

The church lies bereft,


Desecrated, desolated.

And the heathen shall build

On the ruins

Becket will die, but not for any nostalgic reason.  Not for any sentimental purpose.  He will die in obedience to our Lord God.  He defies hyperbole.

In these Post-Modern times, as we struggle to make sense of all the hard times we face, of all the good things we can do.  Let us choose the obedient thing to do, not the thing that may seem right in our own eyes.

There is a crisis of ethics in our time. Only the fool, fixed in his folly, may think he can turn the wheel on which he turns.

To do the right deed for the wrong reason . . . in this age of compromises, of good intentions, it is critical that we follow Becket’s example.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Human kind cannot bear very much reality.

The church shall be open, even to our enemies.

We are not here to triumph by fighting , by stratagem, or by resistance,

Not to fight with beasts as men. We have fought the beast

And have conquered. We have only to conquer

Now, by suffering. This is the easier victory.

For every life and every act

Consequence of good and evil can be shown.

And as in time results of many deeds are blended

So good and evil in the end become confounded.

In life there is not time to grieve long.

O father, father

Gone from us, lost to us,

The church lies bereft,


Desecrated, desolated.

And the heathen shall build


On the ruins

Their world without God.

I see it.

I see it.

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