Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Sign of Blood: St. Thomas Becket, Saint and Martyr



A couple of weeks back I ran a story about Sarah Palin and St. Thomas Becket, Martyr.

I was unaware, until reminded by my good friend Fr. W., that today is the feast day of his martyrdom.

From the Times of London, today:

The entire story of Thomas Becket is about the will to power. It is about temporal power claiming too much from the spiritual, but also, as Eliot saw, about the "last temptation" by which one clothes one's own power-hunger as the will of God. Neither King nor Archbishop was wholly in the right. Their power struggle tells so much of our national story – it is reflected in the Reformation, even in our divisions about the European Union. So it is not only our compulsions, but also our conflicts which the modern pilgrim to Canterbury finds expressed in stone, and robed as destinies.


This is the sign of the Church always, the Sign of Blood

Seven years were my people without my presence;
Seven years of misery and pain.
Seven years a mendicant on foreign charity I lingered abroad:
Seven years is no brevity.
I shall not get those seven years back again.
Never again, you must make no doubt,
Shall the sea run between the shepherd and his fold.

...

It is not I who insult the King,
And there is higher than I or the King.
It is not I, Becket from Cheapside,
It is not against me, Becket, that you strive.
It is not Becket who pronounces doom,
But the Law of Christ's Church, the judgement of Rome.

...

I am here.
No traitor to the King.
I am a priest,
A Christian, saved by the blood of Christ,
Ready to suffer with my blood.
This is the sign of the Church always,
The sign of blood.
Blood for blood.
His blood given to buy my life,
My blood given to pay for His death.
My death for His death.

...

For my Lord I am now ready to die,
That His Church may have peace and liberty.

- T.S. Eliot, Murder In The Cathedral

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