“The World is charged with the grandeur of God.”
So wrote Gerard Manley Hopkins on the occasion of his ordination as a Jesuit priest in 1877. It beautifully expresses his gratitude to a God whose splendor is evident in all the eye can take in, but which the mind cannot fully fathom.
It is reminiscent of the Psalmist, who wrote “You have set your glory in the heavens. When I consider them, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars – who are we that you are mindful of us?”
As poet and priest, Hopkins declares that his life will be spent in service to the one whose grandeur is evident in the rich array of God’s splendor.
It is a poem of eternal optimism borne of deep faith, ‘because,’ he concludes his poem, ‘the Holy Ghost over the bent world broods with warm breast and with ah! Bright wings.’
Written at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, though, it is not an optimism void of deep awareness of the ways humankind can despoil God’s pied beauty (to borrow another Hopkin’s title).
He writes in the intervening lines: “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.”
‘All is seared with trade’. Those were not only descriptive words, they were prophetic. The Earth today bears heavier testimony of what trodding on this planet can wreak. We are less today stewards of God’s grandeur as intended beauty than we are consumers of Earth’s commodities assembled to satisfy our unrestrained avarice and greed. And the Earth is more bleared, smeared and smudged than the Creator intended.
This Lent, let the inhabitants of this Earthly plain take notice of God’s grandeur. Let us be moved by what our Mother Earth provides for our sustenance. Let us also be aware of how our wanton ways are despoiling God’s grandeur.
If you go to macucc.org, the website for the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ, you will find a call for a carbon fast in Lent. A commitment to participate in this Carbon fast is both a spiritual discipline that enriches the mind, soul, and body AND a commitment to honor our role as stewards of God’s creation.
There is nothing more pressing, more imminent, more urgent today than humanity’s commitment to rescue the planet from our consumptive habits.
As you continue your journey through this season of Lent, take time to remind yourself just how splendid this world we live in is – and how utterly charged it is with the grandeur of God.
And as you do so, don’t fail to notice how we have smeared, bleared, and smudged our way through the Earth’s resources as we have trod, have trod, have trod with heavy feet until much of the beauty wears our smudge and shares our smell.
It is not too late on this journey to renew the Earth to God’s original splendor – but it is going to take the collective effort of communities of faith and justice advocates to make that happen.
Gentle listener, see the glory of God’s hand at work. Hear the stones themselves crying out. Heal these wounds. Love this Mother Earth. And then we can continue not just for ourselves, but for the generations to come, the wonder of walking together our way Into the Mystic.