Seven Stanzas for Easter

Make no mistake: if he rose at all

It was as His body;

If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,

The amino acids rekindle,

The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,

Each soft spring recurrent;

It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the

Eleven apostles;

It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes

The same valved heart

That–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then regathered

Out of enduring Might

New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,

Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,

Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded

Credulity of earlier ages:

Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,

Not a stone in a story,

But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of

Time will eclipse for each of us

The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,

Make it a real angel,

Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in

The dawn light, robed in real linen

Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,

For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,

Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed

By the miracle,

And crushed by remonstrance.

Seven Stanzas for Easter – John Updike

[Hat tip: Andrew]

“. . . with ah! bright wings.”

I like this poem.

God’s Grandeur

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?

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: the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went

Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs–

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

– Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844—89)

I think it’s that last line especially that does it for me.

In some ways it reminds me of that early verse in Genesis:

“And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” – Genesis 1:2b

Oh the creativity, the attention to detail, the mighty, thoughtful, brooding, exquisite genius of our Lord! It is overwhelming to think of it, this vast creation: from the subatomic particle to the mighty wheeling galaxies. This poem, somehow, made me think of that, and of the created order, now bent and broken but one day made complete. And it made me think of my place in it, broken and incomplete as I am, ridiculous of body and of shaky mental constitution, but destined for complete redemption. The morning will spring forth in the east.

These small and perishable bodies we now have were given to us as ponies are given to schoolboys. We must learn to manage; not that we may someday be free of horses altogether but that someday we may ride bare-back, confident and rejoicing, those greater mounts, those winged, shining and world-shaking horses which perhaps even now expect us with impatience, pawing and snorting in the King’s stables. Not that the gallop would be of any value unless it were a gallop with the King; but how else – since He has retained His own charger – should we accompany Him?

– C.S. Lewis

[hat tip: Theology of the Body]

A New Jerusalem

I recently bought a large book of poetry. I was just thumbing through it at the bookstore and the first poem I came to was A New Jerusalem by William Blake, and that prompted me to buy the book.

I can’t put my finger on it, but for some reason this poem blows me away. I think partly because I’ve heard it set to music. It was featured in the funeral scene of Chariots of Fire and also, of all places, in a great cover of the hymn by Emerson, Lake and Palmer on their album Brain Salad Surgery (gross title, good album).

A New Jerusalem

And did those feet in ancient time

Walk upon England’s mountains green?

And was the holy Lamb of God

On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine

Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here

Among these dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!

Bring me my arrows of desire!

Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!

Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand

Till we have built Jerusalem

In England’s green and pleasant land.

William Blake