Helena and the Prayer for Epiphany

A Roman Catholic website called OnePeterFive has posted the conclusion of Chapter 11: Epiphany from Waugh’s novel Helena (Penguin, pp. 143-45). The post has appeared on other religious websites as well. This relates to Helena’s celebration of the Feast of the Ephipany (which occurs today in the western church calendar). The feast (sometimes referred to as Twelfth Night) marks the arrival of the three wise men in Bethlehem to present their gifts to the Christchild. The quoted passage concludes with this, referring to the three wise men:

You are my especial patrons,” said Helena, “and patrons of all late-comers, of all who have had a tedious journey to make to the truth, of all who are confused with knowledge and speculation, of all who through politeness make themselves partners in guilt, of all who stand in danger by reason of their talents.

Dear cousins, pray for me,” said Helena, “and for my poor overloaded son [the Emperor Constantine himself, who was still unbaptized]. May he, too, before the end find kneeling-space in the straw. Pray for the great, lest they perish utterly. And pray for Lactantius and Marcias and the young poets of Trèves and for the souls of my wild, blind ancestors; for their sly foe Odysseus and for the great Longinus.

For His sake who did not reject your curious gifts, pray always for the learned, the oblique, the delicate. Let them not be quite forgotten at the Throne of God when the simple come into their kingdom.”

The Blogger also offers this explanation of the passage’s worldly significance:

Evelyn Waugh probably never wrote a more intimate passage for a public audience, as he himself later says in a personal letter to one of his close friends. Helena is also the only book of his that he ever read aloud to his own children–a touching fact in itself.

Waugh was also recently quoted in another religious weblog. This was on the site CatholicCulture.com in an essay by Fr Jerry Pokorski entitled “Expecting Perfection”:

…the expectation of perfection in this life can easily result in another deformity: a malicious refusal to see imperfection and evil. … Evelyn Waugh wrote nearly a century ago:

“It is better to be narrow-minded—than to have no mind, to hold limited and rigid principles than none at all. That is the danger which faces so many people today—to have no considered opinions on any subject, to put up with what is wasteful and harmful with the excuse that there is ‘good in everything’—which in most cases means inability to distinguish between good and bad.”

The quote comes from Waugh’s contribution on the subject of “Tolerance” to a 1932 article in John Bull magazine entitled “The Seven Deadly Sins of Today by Seven Famous Authors.” This is reprinted in EAR, p. 128.

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