Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

16 February 2012

Morning, Midday And Evening Sacrifice

Everything I said in my previous posting ("Unum in Christo…") to engaged couples last week can be summarized in Hopkins' work "Morning, Midday, and Evening Sacrifice":

THE DAPPLED die-away
Cheek and wimpled lip,
The gold-wisp, the airy-grey
Eye, all in fellowship—
This, all this beauty blooming,        5
This, all this freshness fuming,
Give God while worth consuming.
Both thought and thew now bolder
And told by Nature: Tower;
Head, heart, hand, heel, and shoulder        10
That beat and breathe in power—
This pride of prime’s enjoyment
Take as for tool, not toy meant
And hold at Christ’s employment.
The vault and scope and schooling        15
And mastery in the mind,
In silk-ash kept from cooling,
And ripest under rind—
What life half lifts the latch of,
What hell stalks towards the snatch of,        20
Your offering, with despatch, of!

"dappled"--spotted; "die-away"--not sure: die as in the singular of dice? "wimpled"--folded or curved; "thew"--muscular strength or mettle.

I would not pretend to offer an analysis, line-by-line, of this or any poem by Fr. Hopkins.  I am a dilettante "in all things except sin," though certainly in poetry.  I'd say that I aspire to be a Hopkins scholar, but that would imply that I read his poems, critiques, and biographies--or do just about anything--with system and rigor.  Simply put, Hopkins is my man.  While I love the precision of grammar (English, Latin, and Greek in particular), GMH regarded the body of language as his wonderland.  His manipulation of the written and spoken word belies his keen comprehension of the same.  How else could he make such magic, as obscure as it could be at times?

Basically the well-lived (i.e. always imperfect but steadfast) marriage, as embodied in the well-lived (i.e. always imperfect but steadfast) spouses, is the incarnation of the liturgical entreaty known as the Suscipiat:

May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, 
for the praise and glory of His Name, 
for our good and the good of all His holy Church.

(1) The sacrifice--yours and mine.  "What's yours is yours and what's mine is mine," it is said; and it must be so, if what's mine is to become yours and what's yours is to become mine!  I have everything of self to give, and so do you; and your everything must first be wholly yours  if you are to offer it to me and we are to offer "yours and mine" together, in union with Christ and empowered by the Spirit, to the Father.  Does this suggest whole-and-entire understanding of self?  Nobody has that, mystery that we are.  Yet to be on the journey is, in a sense, to become ready to reach the destination--and self-knowledge is not the end in itself, but knowledge oriented to love.

(2) Our good: not in a selfish sense; there is of course a proper sense of self-concern that seeks optimum usefulness to God and others ("as tool not toy meant")--both for its own sake and for the sake of our personal fulfillment.  But insofar as we are members of Christ's holy Church, our personal good is the good of all His holy Church.  Like love and marriage (as told by Sammy Cahn): how, or why, could we seek one apart from the other?

(3) The liturgical directive to stand for the Orate, Fratres (Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours…) fosters in the assembly a sense of vigilance and intent.  With due regard for the proper context of Jesus' directive to Judas "What you are going to do, do quickly" (Jn 13:27), and His related directive to the apostles "Rise, let us be on our way" (Mk 14:42), we may "redeem" them as the command to celebrate the Liturgy in haste ("with despatch"), much as Mary set out to meet Elizabeth.  Indeed, Hopkins writes this poem in the second person, as an exhortation; he is saying, in essence, with equal parts delicacy and force, "You--all of you--offer yourself to Christ, and waste no time at it!"

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