In the Land of Unlikeness

He is the Way.
Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness.
You will see rare beasts and have unique experiences.
He is the Truth.
Seek him in the Kingdom of Anxiety.
You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.
He is the Life.
Love Him in the World of the Flesh.
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.

W.H. Auden,
For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio

Promises, promises.  There is nothing indefinite or conditional about this poem, set to music in The Hymnal 1982 by David Hurd (Hymn 463).   Follow him…He is…You will…Seek him..Love him.  Auden is directive and sure, and we don’t often experience that kind of clarity.  To do any of these things would require a degree of trust that probably isn’t entirely comfortable for any of us.

But how to define these named places? Land of Unlikeness, where we might be removed from complacency?  Kingdom of Anxiety, a place in which we should take more time to look for God?  World of the Flesh, where all life’s occasions, even the most mundane, might be seen as reasons to dance for joy?  Why do I find pleasure in realizing that Auden’s clarity raises so many questions?   Because I’m an Episcopalian!

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