22 April 2010

Gone. Going.

Until further notice, I'll be in Europe with Annie and Nate.

Come with us.

15 April 2010


     "Glory be to God for dappled things," wrote Hopkins.  I love this phrase, this word.  Glory is one of the most beautiful concepts and least understood ideas in English-- at least I don't understand it.  But parable-like, it yields upon closer attention, revealing layer after layer of meaning to the dedicated searcher.  On one level, "glory" seems to signify a particular flavor of brightness or shininess associated with divinity, as when the glory of the Lord abode on mount Sinai in Exodus or shone round about the shepherds in Luke.  Isaiah prophesied, "And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together."  Maybe it's that word "revealed," but I feel this must refer to more than mere physical light.  Glory also seems to connote spiritual enlightenment: Jeremiah said, "let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord."  In the New Testament especially, "seeing the glory of God" seems to accompany a greater understanding about God's nature.  Jesus salved Martha's doubt by reminding her, "Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?"  The miracle that followed wasn't characterized by heavenly radiance, but by evidence of God's power and love.  Jesus talked a lot about glory in his intercessory prayer:
    And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. 
    And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 
    Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
Jesus' use of the word "glory" here resists easy categorization--it's clearly not just "glow".  Jesus had the same glory as the Father, and gave that same glory to the apostles in order that they might "be one." Jesus had previously told his apostles that he and his Father shared the same goals and values and attributes, and in that sense they were "one," while still occupying separate roles as distinct individuals.  So as near as I can tell, God's glory is, in a sense, his essence.  Jesus wanted his disciples to behold it--to perceive it, to incorporate it--just as God conferred it to his son, through love: for he loved Jesus before the foundation of the world, and what is God's essence if not love?  It's what defines his fullest and truest and realest self; perhaps God is glorious because he knows that and lives it, purely and naturally.  If so, glory is not a trait reserved exclusively for gods.  The Proverbs teach that "The wise shall inherit glory" and that "the hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness," suggesting that glory comes with sincere experience, increasing as we come to know, and become, our best selves.  Paul seemed to agree that mortality is a process of learning how to see more clearly and enact more fully our truest nature:  "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."  In other words, we as individuals are at our most glorious when we understand best who we are and who made us, following the example of him who most completely comprehends his own divine nature-- Chríst.  

     "What I do is me; for that I came."  The scriptures are charged with the grandeur of God, his glory made manifest through his works.  "The heavens declare the glory of God;" exulted the psalmist, "and the firmament sheweth his handywork."  Hopkins too had a deep admiration for nature's involuntary, whole-souled, existential song of praise to its creator; his invented term "inscape" characterizes the individual identity which every member of creation enacts or "selves," expressing through action its essential being, and which ultimately constitutes the fingerprint of the divine.  This looks to me like glory at its best.  Each tiny detail of God's creation-- fresh firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings-- exhibits such loveliness in its being and elicits such joy in Hopkins (and me) as to defy interpretation as anything but a distilled, concentrated expression of God's love: dearest freshness, deep down things.  "The voice of the Lord maketh the hinds to calve, and discovereth the forests: and in his temple doth every one speak of his glory," says the psalmist, clearly possessing a Hopkinsian appreciation for nature's beauty as the hallmark of divine design.

     But God's glory is most fully displayed, for both Hopkins and scripture, in his crowning creation: nature's clearest-selvéd spark Man.  In Isaiah the Lord said, "for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him."  His deepest glory, it seems, is to see us deal out that being indoors each one dwells, acting in his eye according to our godly inscape, and recognizing those clear-selvéd sparks in us as divine.  God told Moses, "This is my work and my glory-- to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."  This is a remarkable thing, an incomprehensible thing; for if glory is inscape, then God's work and his self, his pure being, is to see us become like him.  The absurdity of this proposal, the radicalness of this posited transformation, is so enormous as to leave me speechless, so I'll quote Hopkins:
    In a flash, at a trumpet crash, 
    I am all at once what Christ is, ' since he was what I am, and 
    this Jack, joke, poor potsherd, ' patch, matchwood, immortal diamond, 
    Is immortal diamond.
     What of that Jack, joke, poor potsherd?  God's glory is to see us become immortal diamond, but we matchwood mortals can't always stand God's glory.  Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation when the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.  The Lord told him on another occasion, "no man can behold all my glory, and afterwards remain in the flesh on the earth."  And in the days of early Mormonism, God told the saints "ye are not yet pure; ye can not yet bear my glory."  Geologically, the wanwood leafmeal of decayed carbon matter only becomes immortal diamond through heat and pressure over thousands of years; the process of being made pure to bear God's glory can be in itself excruciating, at least for Hopkins (and me).  His terrible sonnets evoke the fell world-sorrow of mortal man yearning toward an unreachable divine, made not less but rather more painful by the certainty of God's glory.  "Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend," Hopkins cries, "how wouldst thou worst, I wonder, than thou dost, defeat, thwart me?"
    But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me 
    Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan 
    with darksome devouring eyes my bruisèd bones? and fan, 
    O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee? 
     "That my chaff might fly; my grain like, sheer and clear."  Hopkins knows.  And he knows God knows.  The pain of separation serves to refine and mold us into our most completely inscaped selves.  "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment," wrote Paul, "worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."  In another letter, Paul even suggested there is beauty and wisdom in suffering itself: "Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory."  And who understands this dark side of Glory better than Jesus himself?  "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things," he asked his disciples, "and to enter into his glory?"  It was that conversation that made their heart burn within them-- only after the preceding days had brought much gall and heartburn in the fell of dark, not day.

     "Glory be to God," Hopkins wrote, "for dappled things."  There could be no things more dappled than us who he fathers-forth-- more swift and also slow; sweet and also sour; adazzle, and also painfully dim.  And yet we are his glory, his being, his self-- because he loves us.  And in a way perhaps only any parent can understand, somehow his glorious love is no less for our dimness, our darkness, our fellness, our blindness.  He loves us-- for Christ plays in ten thousand places, lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his to the Father through the features of men's faces.  But he also loves us even when we do not reck his rod.  And when we breed not one work that wakes.  And when selfyeast of spirit sours our dull dough.  And when we wrestle with him, our God (my God!) for years.  He loves our blear.  He loves our smear.  He loves our smudge.  He loves our smell.
    Praise him.

01 April 2010

Baby steps.

After a year and a half of my patient tutelage, my phone has finally, suddenly learned how to spell 9428 as WHAT (not WGAT) and 9268 as WANT  (not WBNT). 

Miracles happen.

Up next: NEXT (not MEXT).