A Meditation on W.H. Auden's For The Time Being - A Christmas Oratorio

December 23, 2015

W.H Auden was one of the most influential figures English language poetry in the last century. He was born in Britain but later emigrated to the United States just before World War II broke out. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948 for The Age of Anxiety. Much of his poetry is concerned with moral issues and there is often a strong political, social, psychological and religious context. His long poem For The Time Being - A Christmas Oratorio which was written in 1942, has been described as a meditation, a theological reflection, a prayer, and a life long journey. Whatever it may be, one can discover in it some very enriching and illuminating thoughts that can inform Christian life.

The Oratorio suggests that when one follows God’s star, one is led on a journey from time to eternity. Those who are on this journey do not limit themselves with not-essentials or “minor tasks”.

The video above is a short extract from a performance of the poem entitled THE SUMMONS: STAR OF THE NATIVITY by The Affinity Collaborative Theatre at the GreenSpace in 2010. The performance was directed by Michael Cumpsty, star of the Tony Award-winning Copenhagen. Cast members included Michael Cumpsty, Maria Tucci and George Morfogen. Ponder the oratorio:

The Star of the Nativity: I am the star most dreaded by the Wise. For they are drawn against their will to me. I shall deprive persons of their minor tasks.
The First Wise Man: To follow how to be truthful now is the reason I follow that star.
The Second Wise Man: To discover how to be living now is the reason I follow the star.
The Third Wise Man: To discover how to belong now is the reason I follow the star.
The Three Wise men: To discover how to be human is the reason we follow the star.

Then there is the story about a fourth Wise Man who did not arrive at the little town of Bethlehem because did not follow the star all the way, but turned aside to do something else and lost he gift of eternal life. He limited himself to activities of time and space, when God called him to a vision of eternity. Perhaps, many of us find ourselves in the same way: engaged in mundane things and too busy to follow the star that leads to eternal life. We must not miss God's opportunity to follow the star, for if we do, we will not be fully human and open to eternal life.