Liturgy: 'In my beginning is my end'

By Canon Philip Gillespie

In my beginning is my end’

This line opens ‘East Coker’, the second section of TS Eliot’s poetic masterpiece Four Quartets. It is followed by a haunting reflection on the fragile and transitory nature of life as seen in the cycle of life and death in nature. What is the meaning of our short lives? What hope are we given in this passing world? In whom shall we trust for our salvation?

The month of November with its remembrance of the Fallen, the glorious dead, and ‘those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith’ has made us echo in our hearts the autumnal decay around us, and yet also encouraged us to experience the autumnal fruitfulness. The Liturgy of the month concludes with the Sunday Solemnity of Christ the King, as we echo the cry of the Easter Vigil: 

Christ yesterday and today,
the beginning and the end,
Alpha and Omega,
all time belongs to him
and all the ages;
to him be glory and power,
through every age and for ever. Amen

As December arrives the season of Advent opens, a time of waiting and expectation – with a perspective in the first weeks not so much of stars, stable and shepherds, but of the fulfilment of all things and the coming of Jesus at the end of all time. As we look around our society today, look to the events in our communities and in our world, we can easily think that the old order of things is indeed passing away and the song of the angels on Christmas night may be slightly mistaken – ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those who enjoy God’s favour’.

And yet that is the very promise and  expectation and hope which we as disciples of Christ treasure in our hearts and which gives direction and purpose to our daily living. Christmas and Easter may seem at opposite ends of the Liturgical year but in fact they both celebrate the faithfulness of God in the self-same person, Jesus.

May the Light of Christ, rising in glory,
dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.