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Saturday, October 18, 2014

"God's Grandeur" In Distress

God's Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
        It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
        It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not *reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
        And all is seared with trade; Bleared, smeared with toil;
        And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
        There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
        Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
        World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
--Gerard Manley Hopkins (1877)

* care for; take heed of

When does the human spirit feel closest to the Creator? If you are like me, I am often humbled with His presence when in close contact with His natural creations. Gerald Manly Hopkins speaks of the beauty and power of nature in his poem "God's Grandeur." The sonnet with the alliterative title stresses the immanence of God.

The sonnet God’s Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins stresses the immanence of God. - See more at:
Whatever the dynamics -- whether nature "flames out" boldly in its awesome wonders or whether it "oozes" in the steady trickles of its simple forms -- God's glory is everywhere. Hopkins affirms that the entire world is "charged" with His grand natural creations, and He broods over his earthly kingdom with the greatest of love.

 The poet asks how humans fail to heed His authority despite the divine anointment of these  indigenous gifts. Men seem bound not to "reck his rod" as if they care little about the earth. The "rod” in the verse is metaphorically described as God’s power. Humans seem to be oblivious to take great care for the creations of the Almighty.

The second quatrain (four line stanza) describes the relentless generations of contemporary humans that "trod" on the soil and stain the landscape with their "toil" and "trade." Their industry and economy take precedence over any loving, spiritual connection to the earth. The poem may be read both as a literal lament for the destruction of the environment by industry, and as a metaphorical lament that humans are more concerned with the prosaic and utilitarian than with spiritual values.

Living in the marred landscape they have carelessly transformed by their base, material concerns, humans become insensitive to the beauties of nature and, thus, alienated from God. This is a sinful condition.

    "[There is] treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; 
      but a foolish man spendeth it up."  
(Proverbs 21:20)

Hopkins asserts that mankind cannot "feel" the natural disconnect through the simple symbol of the "shod" human foot. Having lost direct physical contact with the ground, people employ shoes to transform the actual "feel" of contact with the terrain.

Yet, the poet states: "And for all this, nature is never spent." No matter the human indifference, God, through the hands of the Holy Ghost, continues to grace man's existence with His continual powers of renewal and new creations. From each dark sundown eventually "springs" an assuring morning symbolic of regeneration and beautiful life. This is proof of His supernatural vitality which is readily available for the witness of those who care.

Hopkins chooses a small, peaceful avian creation to illustrate a powerful abstract idea. Like a doting dove tends to its nest, the Creator protects his incredible, precious, natural creations -- the flora, the fauna, and humankind. And, He does so with beautiful, all-encompassing, "bright" wings. For this loving incubation, a grateful mankind should express awe in worship and joy of spirit. But, do they?

Indeed, Gerald Manly Hopkins offers the theme in "God's Grandeur" that this world is infused by the Almight with a beauty and power that not only withstands human corruption but also triumphs over it.

Do we live in a resplendent world waiting for man to come back to God and nature? And, if so, might this mean a return to spiritual obedience so sorely lacking today?

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