Notebook

Lot’s Wife

Today’s Mass Gospel (Luke 17,26-37) exhorts us to remember Lot’s wife, arrestingly portrayed in a poem by Anna Akhmatova.

‘Akhmatova explores the symbolic potential of Lot’s wife from within, rescuing her from the status of a theological cartoon, conjuring up a loveable, pathetic presence. Akhmatova had tasted the bitter fruits of ideological absolutism. She, so elegantly colourful in Modigliani’s portraits, would not countenance the sketching of a complex human destiny with nothing but charcoal. She redeems Lot’s wife from two-dimensionality. Her poem enriches the story in ways that seem to me, not only licit, but indispensable. Her compassionate insight spells a lesson for all time. What holds us back from unconditional self-giving is not just attachment to vice. Much that claims us is good and dear. To remember Lot’s wife is to prepare for a severance that may bring pain.’

From The Shattering of Loneliness