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Because I do not hope to turn again 

Because I do not hope 

Because I do not hope to turn... 

From Ash Wednesday, T S Eliot 

T S Eliot’s poem Ash Wednesday begins with those words and captures magnificently the heart and mind of the one who is seeking to return. 

From the distance of one who has wandered, Eliot speaks of the hope that arises in the midst of feelings of separation and hopelessness. 

The poem begins, ‘Because I do not hope...’ Then there is much meandering, during which Eliot reveals that deep down he knows of God’s graciousness and mercy; a deep knowing, that he battles to believe; that he fears may be too good to be true. What if on return he discovers that the wanderer is punished for wandering? 

As the poem progresses, Eliot questions that which he knows in the depths of his being, and wrestles with the doubts that are sown by a culture that tells us that we have to earn our worth, and that some people – women, First Nations people, those who live with disabilities – have to try harder than others to earn worth.

In so doing he reminds us of how this nascent and quiet hope, that dwells in our depths, can be crushed. What if God is made in the image of culture? What if God too demands that I earn love and worth? 

Eliot’s poem ends with... 

Although I do not hope to turn again 

Although I do not hope 

Although I do not hope to turn... 

...And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices 

In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices 

And the weak spirit quickens to rebel...  


...Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood 

Teach us to care and not to care 

Teach us to sit still 

Even among these rocks, 

Our peace in His will 

And even among these rocks 

Sister, mother 

And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea, 

Suffer me not to be separated 

And let my cry come unto Thee. 

From Ash Wednesday, T S Eliot 

Still unsure, because of the deep fears he holds, he does return, and finds that the return is as he had hoped and not as he had feared. Although he does not hope to turn, he does. 

Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent present opportunities for us to make the same sort of return. They offer us the opportunity for reflection, sifting and renewal; they are constructed so as to offer us the opportunity to embrace new beginnings; they are times for revisiting. 

Perhaps if you have not been for a while or have been feeling at a distance, this Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, might provide an opportunity for you to make a return, to listen to and respond to that deeply imbedded voice of hope. 

You can access the whole text of Ash Wednesday here.