I thought it would be fitting as we move deeper and deeper into this Holy Week to devote today’s blog to a beautiful poem by the 19th century Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins. The very richness of Hopkins’ poetry has a way of slowing down the reader, of helping the reader pay greater attention to the essentials. That’s something I could use this week.
In “That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection,” Hopkins asks us to consider the ways that the way of the world is destruction. Both nature (here the rain storm) and mortality (here represented by the use of the pre-Platonic Greek philosopher Heraclitus’s concept that the essential character of the universe is fire) ultimately annihilate everything. Even humanity: no matter what our accomplishments (our “firedint,” our “mark” on the world) all is eventually “blot black out,” and all is “blur[red]” and “leveled” into oblivion.
In fact, nothing remains but the “enormous dark”—and Hopkins’ anguished response, “O pity and indignation” is the response of all of us who understand the despair of a world where death is a finality.
But that’s not the final word. “Enough!” says Hopkins. Christ’s resurrection is like a trumpet rousing him to remember that the resurrection has significant consequences for Hopkins himself. It transforms not only his relationship to his own mortality, but also his own self-image. Yes, broken and ridiculous, but also beautiful and eternal. I won’t say more: read the powerful ending for yourself.
And then, go forth remembering that your identity—now and forever more—is an “immortal diamond.” And that Easter is what makes that so. That is the comfort of the resurrection, indeed.
That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection
by Gerard Manley Hopkins