As an associate editor here at Macrina, it is a sheer gift to be a keeper of the insights and stories you have shared with us here. Having been entrusted as the receiver and bearer of your thoughts, I have nothing but thanks to offer in return; a whole lot of gratitude and a couple thoughts of my own.
What a year it has been, friends. I need not rehearse for you the traumas and difficulties of the months we have passed together; you know them full well. It is tempting to lapse into either irony or silence in face of difficulty like this: when our sense of belonging has been unravelled, our kinship sacrificed, or our love spurned. It is tempting to construe the road ahead as desolate and ravaged or, hearkening to T.S. Eliot’s modernist masterpiece, the landscape of our sojourning as a “wasteland” of sorts. In The Wasteland, from “the agony in stony places” or “the yellow smoke that slides along the street,” to the terrifying “I will show you fear in a handful of dust”, Eliot employs imagery that is utterly devoid of the promise of redemption.1 And it is tempting to be subsumed by such bleakness. So tempting.
Yet in light of our belief in God as creator and redeemer of the universe, the finality of this vision of a ravaged and ruined landscape becomes breathtakingly untenable. Hearkening now to Eliot’s less celebrated Four Quartets, we are invited to acknowledge that we have not been called forth to fare forward through a wasteland, but a garden—a garden in which, as Eliot reminds us, “Alle shalle be welle and all manner of thing shalle be made welle/ when the tongue of flames are in-folded into the crowned knot of fire and the fire and the rose are one."2 As Saint Macrina’s own little brother Gregory of Nyssa reminds us in his homilies on the Song of Songs, God himself plants us in the garden of his creation, and it is none but God’s own son who now lovingly tends to his father’s seedlings. Gregory insists that even in light of the ravaging effects of sin (a wasteland of our own making), “he descended in order to once again make the desert, beautified by the planting of virtues, a garden, and by the Word channeled the pure and divine spring waters of the teacher with the aim of fostering such plants."3
I think that it takes a good deal of courage to believe this and to live like that. To stake oneself, to have known loss, to leave behind the mentality of wasteland and continue to press forward is risky. Yet, as philosopher and social theorist Gillian Rose contends, the work is not to attempt avoidance of this risk and all its contradictions, but “to stage a re-enactment of its first, focal, fatal, and fateful wisdom: that life must be risked in order to be gained; that only by the discovery of the limit of life— death—is ‘life’ itself discovered, and recalcitrant otherness opens its potentialities and possibilities."4
Last Monday, in the tawny, caramel sunlight of a New England autumn morning, I traipsed through the apple orchards behind my childhood home; headphones on, puppy in tow. That morning I re-visited Bruce Springsteen’s classic album Born to Run. This record has been a constant and dear friend of mine over the years. It has reminded me of who I am when I’ve forgotten, kindled the fire when I’ve lost my hunger, and ennobled me to press forward when I’ve felt unsure of how to keep going. In the titular track, Springsteen invites the listener back out onto the road with him. “Will you walk with me out on the wire?” he dares his audience. “Baby I’m just a scared and lonely rider/ but I gotta know how it feels. I wanna know if love is wild/ I wanna know if love is real”. Springsteen’s anxiety and desperation are palpable over brazen saxophones and an exuberant melody, but so is his drive to fare forward. As the track reached its denouement, I heard a faint echo of Christ’s call to discipleship in Springsteen’s shout of joy: “Together we can live with the sadness/ I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul”. It is a plea that intimates something powerful about the risk of loving, the madness of Eros, and the dialectical relationship between the sorrow and joy of sojourning. And as this all too familiar lyric thundered through my headphone speakers, I felt an entirely unexpected yet entirely uncompromising “Hineni” or “Here I am” rising in my chest. So here I am. And here you are, friends. In the middle, trying, failing, learning, trying again. It is a joy to be on the way with you, and it is my hope that through Macrina Magazine, we will continue to be faithful travelling companions to each other, sharing what we’re learning along the way.
- Eliot, T.S. “The Wasteland”. Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47311/the-waste-land. Accessed 26 October, 2020.
- Eliot, T.S. “Little Gidding” The Four Quartets. Harvest/HBJ Publishers. 1971. 59.
- Gregory of Nyssa “Homily XIII”, Gregory Of Nyssa: Homilies On The Song Of Songs. 2012. Norris, R, Atlanta. Society of Biblical Literature. 465.
- Rose, Gillian. 1992. The Broken Middle. Oxford: Blackwell. 16.