Dec 30, 2009


Yesterday, December 29, the 5th day of Christmas, was a good day to re-read T.S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral, in honor of Thomas Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury and martyr.

Murdered in Canterbury Cathedral on December 29, 1170, Beckett is a fascinating historical and religious figure, and I am forever curious to know the "real" Thomas: what brought about the change from the carousing Chancellor to the faithful priest? Was it mere politics? Was he really a faithful priest, as most believe? The inner life is so often hidden.

That's one reason that I like Eliot's study. It explores Beckett's motivations and his responses to temptation, provides the murderers with an opportunity to justify their acts, and challenges us as we face our own trials. Becket dismisses his final tempter:

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.

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