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

29 August 2013

Let's Hear It For Alphabetical Order!

While scrolling through the iPod this evening, I noticed the curious juxtaposition of two works: a dramatic reading of The Habit of Perfection by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and the song "Had To Cry Today" by Blind Faith. (Both selections are available on iTunes.) I was first introduced to Hopkins by the poetry section in the back of the four-volume Liturgy of the Hours, and to Blind Faith by a seminary classmate. For the Patient Reader's convenience I shall offer both selections:

ELECTED Silence, sing to me
And beat upon my whorlèd ear,
Pipe me to pastures still and be
The music that I care to hear.
Shape nothing, lips; be lovely-dumb:        5
It is the shut, the curfew sent
From there where all surrenders come
Which only makes you eloquent.
Be shellèd, eyes, with double dark
And find the uncreated light:        10
This ruck and reel which you remark
Coils, keeps, and teases simple sight.
Palate, the hutch of tasty lust,
Desire not to be rinsed with wine:
The can must be so sweet, the crust        15
So fresh that come in fasts divine!
Nostrils, your careless breath that spend
Upon the stir and keep of pride,
What relish shall the censers send
Along the sanctuary side!        20
O feel-of-primrose hands, O feet
That want the yield of plushy sward,
But you shall walk the golden street
And you unhouse and house the Lord.
And, Poverty, be thou the bride        25
And now the marriage feast begun,
And lily-coloured clothes provide
Your spouse not laboured-at nor spun.

It's already written that today will be one to remember
The feeling's the same as being outside of the law
Had to cry today
Well, I saw your sign and I missed you there

I'm taking the chance to see the wind in your eyes while I listen
You say you can't reach me but you want every word to be free
Had to cry today
Well, I saw your sign and I missed you there
And I missed you there

Had to cry today ...

More lyrics:

I propose a relationship between the content of these poetic works. Hopkins writes in praise of the consecrated, vowed ("elected" as in freely chosen) religious life. It is the avenue to perfection: the ever-deepening relationship with the Trinity which finds its consummation in heaven.

The standard spiritual supposition is that people move swiftly along the path to spiritual progress by sensory self-denial. Hopkins provides examples: intentionally forgoing conversation and other forms of external noise (ll. 1-8), visual delights (9-12), gustatory pleasures (13-16), pleasant odors (17-20), tactile comforts (21-24), and all that money can buy (25-28). Thus he corroborates the Lord's contention that the consecrated person will receive "a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life" (Mt 19:29), in eternity if not in time.

The firm of Clapton, Winwood, Baker, and Grech support Hopkins' case (unwittingly, I'm sure) in "Had To Cry Today." We regret ignoring opportunities to connect. Perhaps one of the worst purgatorial pains will be a video montage of what could have been if we'd paid more attention to God and to people during our lives. We happily recall, however, that Divine Providence is the backdrop for such footage; for, even if we failed to bridge an unfortunate gap, God is bigger than all the dramatis personae in the human story.

It is likewise important to note that our interior recollection makes it easier to recognize the signs of God's presence and human need. Our periodic purification efforts might be only a shadow of others' efforts, but we profit by them by becoming clearer channels of compassion.

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