May is Mary’s Month

 

The May Magnificat
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

May is Mary’s month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why:
Her feasts follow reason,
Dated due to season—

Candlemas, Lady Day;
But the Lady Month, May,
Why fasten that upon her,
With a feasting in her honour?

Is it only its being brighter
Than the most are must delight her?
Is it opportunest
And flowers finds soonest?

Ask of her, the mighty mother:
Her reply puts this other
Question: What is Spring?—
Growth in every thing—

Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
Grass and greenworld all together;
Star-eyed strawberry-breasted
Throstle above her nested

Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within;
And bird and blossom swell
In sod or sheath or shell.

All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathising
With that world of good,
Nature’s motherhood.

Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
How she did in her stored
Magnify the Lord.

Well but there was more than this:
Spring’s universal bliss
Much, had much to say
To offering Mary May.

When drop-of-blood-and-foam-dapple
Bloom lights the orchard-apple
And thicket and thorp are merry
With silver-surfèd cherry

And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes
And magic cuckoocall
Caps, clears, and clinches all—

This ecstasy all through mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ’s birth
To remember and exultation
In God who was her salvation.

Favorite Quotes from Les Misérables, Part 2

As I’ve progressed in my journey through Les Misérables, I have continued to find quotes that are moving, profound, and beautiful. While philosophically and theologically, Hugo has some beliefs with which I disagree, he is always worth listening to. This will not be the last post in this series, as there are more quotes I would like to share in the near future (Click here for Part 1).

[Describing what it is like to die in a war] If there is anything terrible, if there exists a reality which surpasses dreams, it is this: to live, to see the sun; to be in full possession of virile force; to possess health and joy; to laugh valiantly to rush towards a glory which one sees dazzingly in front of one; to feel in one’s breast lungs which breath, a heart which beats, a will which reasons; to speak, think, hope, love; to have a mother, to have a wife, to have children; to have the light—and all at once, in the space of a shout, in less than a minute, to sink into an abyss; to fall, to roll to crush, to be crushed; to see ears of wheat flowers leaves, branches; to be able to catch hold of anything; to feel one’s sword useless, men beneath one, horses on top of one; to struggle in vain, since one’s bones have been broken by some kick in the darkness; to feel a heel which makes one’s eyes start from their sockets; to bite horses’ shoes in one’s rage; to stifle, to yell, to writhe; to be beneath, and to say to one’s self, “But just a little while ago, I was a living man!”

A hundred years is youth in a church and age in a house. It seems as though man’s lodging partook of his ephemeral character, and God’s house of his eternity.

Nothing oppresses the heart like symmetry. It is because symmetry is ennui, and ennui is at the very foundation of grief. Despair yawns. Something more terrible than hell where one suffers may be imagine, and that is a hell where one is bored.

Children accept joy and happiness instantly and familiarly being themselves by nature joy and happiness.

She did not understand Latin, but she understood the book.

What contemplation for the mind, and what endless food for thought, is the reverberation of God upon the human wall!

A faith; this is a necessity for man. Woe to him who believes nothing.

[About nuns and other religious] There certainly must be some who pray constantly for those who never pray at all.

[Regarding nuns] We, who do not believe what these women believe, but who, like them, live by faith—we have never been able to think without a sort of tender and religious terror, without a sort of pity, that is full of envy, of those devoted, trembling and trusting creatures, of these humble and august souls, who dare to dwell on the very brink of the mystery, waiting between the world which is closed and heaven which is not yet open, turned towards the light which one cannot see, possessing the sole happiness of thinking that they know where it is, aspiring towards the gulf, and the unknown, their eyes fixed motionless on the darkness, kneeling, bewildered, stupefied, shuddering, half lifted, at times, by the deep breaths of eternity.

Joy is the ebb of terror.

A smile is the same as sunshine; it banishes winter from the human countenance.

And moreover, when both are sincere and good, no men so penetrate each other, and so amalgamate with each other, as an old priest and and old soldier. At bottom, the man is the same. The one has devoted his life to his country here below, the other to his country on high; that is the only difference.

What a spectacle is the night! One hears dull sounds, without knowing whence they proceed; one beholds Jupiter, which is twelve hundred times larger than the earth, glowing like a firebrand, the azure is black, the stars shine; it is formidable.

In the sacred shadows, there lies latent light. Volcanoes are full of a shadow that is capable of flashing forth. Every form begins by being night. The catacombs, in which the first mass was said, were not alone the cellar of Rome, they were the vaults of the world.

There is one thing sadder than to see one’s children die; it is to see them leading an evil life.

Right triumphant has no need of being violent; right is the just and the true.

Who then, can calculate the course of a molecule? How do we know that the creation of worlds is not determined by the fall of grains of sand? Who knows the reciprocal ebb and flow of the infinitely great and the infinitely little, the reverberations of causes in the precipices of being, and the avalanches of creation? The tiniest worm is of great importance; the great is little, the little is great; everything is balanced in necessity; alarming vision for the mind.

There are marvelous relations between beings and things; in that inexhaustible whole, from the sun to the grub, nothings despises the other; all have need of each other. The lights does not bear away terrestrial perfumes into the azure depths, without knowing what it is doing; the night distributes stellar essences to the sleeping flowers. All birds that fly have round their leg the thread of the infinite. Germination is complicated with the bursting forth of a meteor and with the peck of a swallow cracking its egg, and it places on one level the birth of an earthworm and the advent of Socrates. Where the telescope ends, the microscope begins. Which of the two possesses the larger field of vision? Choose.

In the vast cosmic exchanges the universal life goes and comes in unknown quantities, rolling entirely in the invisible mystery of effluvia, employing everything, not losing a single dream, not a single slumber, sowing an animalcule here, crumbling to bits a planet there, oscillating and winding, making of light a force and of thought an element, disseminated and invisible, dissolving all, except that geometrical point, the I; bringing everything back to the soul-atom; expanding everything in God, entangling all activity, from summit to base, in the obscurity of a dizzy mechanism, attaching the flight of an insect to the movement of the earth, subordinating, who knows? Where it only by the identity of the law, the evolution of the comet in the firmament to the whirling of the infusoria in the drop of water. A machine made of mind. Enormous gearing, the prime motor of which is the gnat, and whose final wheel is the zodiac.

Victor Hugo on Atheism

I am in the midst of reading Victor Hugo’s epic novel Les Misérables—and I will be for some time as it is a massive work. In the midst of the novel, Hugo digresses, as he is wont to do, into a fascinating discussion of atheism. Hugo lived in a time of great upheaval intellectually and morally, a time of revolution. Of course, one of the battle cries of the revolutionaries of his day was, “God is dead.” It is to this he responds. Now, Hugo himself was by no means a traditionalist. He considered himself a free-thinker—one who had progressed beyond the archaisms of traditional religion. Nevertheless, he recognized that atheism was not an answer to anything. Here is what he said.

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here is, as we know, a philosophy which denies the infinite. There is also a philosophy, pathologically classified, which denies the sun; this philosophy is also called blindness.

To erect a sense which we lack into a source of truth is a fine blind man’s self-sufficiency.

The curious thing is the haughty, superior, and compassionate airs which this groping philosophy assumes towards the philosophy which belongs to God. One fancies he hears a mole crying, “I pity them with their sun!”

There are, as we know, powerful and illustrious atheists. At bottom, led back to the truth by their very force, they are not absolutely sure that they are atheists; it is with them only a question of definition, and in any case, if they do not believe in God, being great minds, they prove God.

We salute them as philosophers, while inexorably denouncing their philosophy.

The remarkable thing about it is, also, their facility in paying themselves off  with words. A metaphysical school of the North, impregnated to some extent with fog, has fancied that it has worked a revolution in human understanding by replacing the word Force with Will.

To say, “The plant wills,” instead of, “the plant grows,” this would be fertile in results indeed if we were to add, “the universe wills.” Why? Because it would come to this: the plant wills, there for it has an I; the universe will, therefore it has a God.

As for us, who, however, in contradistinction to this school, reject nothing a priori, a will in the plant, accepted by this school, appears to us more difficult to admit than a will in the universe denied by it.

To deny the will of the infinite, that is to say, God, is impossible on any other conditions than a denial of the infinite. We have demonstrated this.

The negation of the infinite leads straight to nihilism. Everything becomes “a mental conception.”

With nihilism, no discussion is possible. For the nihilist logic doubts the existence of its interlocutor , and it is not sure that it exists itself.

From its point of view, it is possible that it may be for itself, only a “mental conception.”

Only, it does not perceive that all which it has denied it admits simply by the utterance of the word “Mind.”

In short, no way is open to the thought by a philosophy which makes all end in the monosyllable, No.

To No, there is only one reply: Yes.

Nihilism has no point.

There is no such thing as nothingness. Zero does not exist. Everything is something. Nothing is nothing. Man lives by affirmation even more than by bread….

For our part…we will confine ourselves to saying that we niether understand man as a point of departure nor progress as an end, without those two forces which are their two motors: faith and love.

Progress is the goal, the ideal is the type.

What is the ideal? It is God.

Ideal, absolute, perfection, infinity: identical words.

— Volume II, Book VII, Chapter VI: “The Absolute Goodness of Prayer”

Favorite Quotes from Les Misérables

Currently, I am in the process of reading the stirring epic, Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo—one of the greatest works of Romantic literature, and one which I wholeheartedly recommend. While I have  yet to finish the book (I have quite a ways yet to go; it is a massive work), I have so far come across many memorable and profound gems of truth in it. Some of the most beautiful of these are passages dedicated to describing the good Bishop who was to have such a profound influence on the wretched and desperate Jean Valjean. Below are a but a few of my favorite sections.

The Bishop

He  knew how to say the grandest things in the most vulgar of idioms. As he spoke all tongues, he entered into all hearts.

….

He condemned nothing in haste and without taking circmstances into account. He said, “Examine the road over which the fault has passed.”

….

“Man has upon him his flesh, which is at once his burden and his temptation. He drags it with him and yields to it. He must watch it, cheek it, repress it, and obey it only at the last extremity. There may be some fault even in this obedience; but the fault thus committed is venial; it is a fall, but a fall on the knees which may terminate in prayer.”

….

“The faults of women, of children, of the feeble, the indigent, and the ignorant, are the fault of the husbands, the fathers, the masters, the strong, the rich, and the wise.”

….

Words to a despondent yet repentant criminal before his execution: “God raises from the dead him whom man slays; he whom his brothers have rejected finds his Father once more. Pray, believe, enter into life: the Father is there.”

….

He sought not to efface sorrow by forgetfulness, but to magnify and beautify it by hope.

….

Sometimes he dug in his garden; again, he read or wrote. He had but one word for both these kinds of toil; he called them gardening. “The mind is a garden,” said he.

….

“The most beautiful of altars,” he said, “is the soul of an unhappy creature consoled and thanking God.”

….

“Ecclesiastes calls you the All-Powerful; the Maccabees call you the Creator; the Epistle to the Ephesians calls you Liberty; Baruch calls you Immensity; the Psalms call you Wisdom and Truth; John calls you Light; the Books of Kings call you Lord; Exodus calls you Providence; Leviticus, Sanctity; Esdras, Justice; the creation calls you God; man calls you Father; But Solomon calls you Compassion, and that is the most beautiful of all your names.”

….

“The infinite is. He is there. If the infinite had no person, person would be without limit; It would not be infinite; in other words, it would not exist. There is then, an I. That I of the infinite is God.”

Jean Valjean, Ex-Convict, Meets the Bishop

“Monsieur le Curé,” said [Valjean], “you are good; you do not despise me. You receive me into your house. You light your candles for me. Yet I have not concealed from you whence I come and that I am an unfortunate man.”

The Bishop, who was sitting close to him, gently touched his hand. “You could not help telling me who you were. This is not my house; it is the house of Jesus Christ. This door does not demand of him who enters whether he has a name, but whether he has grief. You suffer, you are hungy and thirsty; you are welcome. And do not thank me; do not say that I receive you in my house. No one is at home here, except that man who needs a refuge. I say to you, who are passing by, that you are much more at home here than I am myself. Everything here is yours. What need have I to know your name? Besides, before you told me you had one which I knew.”

[Valjean] opened his eyes in astonishment. “Really? You knew what I was called?”

“Yes,” replied the Bishop, “you are called my brother.”

Valjean’s Struggle

Thus did this unhappy soul struggle in its anguish. Eighteen hundred years before this unfortunate man, the mysterious Being in whom are summed up all the sanctities and all the sufferings of humanity had also long thrust aside with this hand, while the olive-trees quivered in the wild wind of the infinite, the terrible cup which appeared to Him dripping with darkness and overflowing with shadows in the depths all studded with stars.