Beauty, Past Change

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Fr Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

The famous Romantic poet, a contemporary of the illustrious Christina Rossetti, and convert received into the Church by Bl John Cardinal Henry Newman. This priest lead a troubled life, and fell into melancholy later on: but he never abandoned the faith nor fell into despair.

 

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Frightened and Offended

Something about the Scottish Church (the actual Church, not the Presbyterian conglomerate) that amazes me is their immense devotion to orthodoxy, or at least an attempt to be. His Grace Philip Tartaglia has been published in the latest online edition of  First Things, which I highly recommend. It is one of the best treatises in support and protection of the priesthood. He writes,

…the Church’s transcendent orientation fascinates our culture. Holiness offends and frightens people. As an old translation of the New Testament put it, when the angel of the Lord came to them, the shepherds in their fields were “sore afraid.” Holiness also arrests and romances. We flee from God, yet we crave to come into his presence.

While I won’t delve into the priesthood yet in this point, something else raises in my mind. His Grace points out something interesting: ‘holiness offends and frightens people.’ 

Why does it? Now, I won’t go full on Zizek with you; any time we encounter the truth it offends and disturbs the illusion of our day-to-day lives. When we receive the Eucharist, some may break into tears or humble ourselves or some might not even understand what’s happening due to ill catechesis. But if we truly knew what was occurring, we would die on the spot of happiness and piety! Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen wrote something like that, and I can’t find the quote.

The “real” is shocking, and God is the highest love, truth, devotion. God is omniscient. Perhaps we ought to return to greater reverence, greater repentance, all in recognition of our sins and offences. God loves us so very much, and is closer than our very breath! His love is rapturing, and we see this in the saints – St Teresa flew into ecstasy, St Padre Pio bilocated, St Francis received the stigmata. We have to be saints! We need be frightened and offended, so that we might further the call to universal holiness.

 

God’s Movement towards Mankind

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God’s love is the source of all our love, and he is the one taking the initiative in the lovestory between him and us. For this reason, the heart of Christ is the starting point of the dynamics of love.  Christ is the incarnation of the Godhead, which means that he is the embodiment of God, who is love. Because he is Love incarnated, he is the standard by which all love is measured. Since love has its seat in the heart, Christ’s heart is the symbol of this love.

It is an important property of this love that it makes the lover shift his gaze from himself to the beloved. As a consequence, none has greater love than he who gives his life for his friends. It follows from this that the love of God is most profoundly revealed in Christ crucified, and to Francis de Sales he is the best teacher of the dynamics of love: «Mount Calvary is the true school of love.»

  • Taken from the writings of Susanne A. Kjekshus Koch,”SAINT FRANCIS DE SALES AND THE THEOLOGY OF HEARTS: The Dynamics of Love” (link)