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

THE MURDER IN THE CATHEDRAL by T. S. Eliot is my personal favorite 20th century play and full of encouraging truth for the growing Christian believer (SEE J. STOBAUGH, BRITISH LITERATURE (NASHVILLE, BROADMAN&HOLMAN, 2006)..

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 4 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” temptaiton 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.

Comments are closed.