Death and the Christian damsel.


This is the Hopkins poem that was alluded to yesterday.. Yesterday the family was phoning each other and watching the coast because there was a Tsunami crossing the pacific from the Solomon Islands and we were on alert. It did not cause any damage this far into the South Pacific — where I life the Southern Ocean meets the Pacific along the Chatham Island Ridge — but it caused deaths further north.Life is fragile.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

Spring and Fall:

to a Young Child

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Someone commenting on the core thread at SSM pointed out that love in this world is not everlasting. It is til death: there we part. The pleasures and pains of this life will fail and fall.

Psalm 116

12  What shall I return to the LORD
for all his bounty to me?
13   I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD,
14  I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.
15  Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
16  O LORD, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the child of your serving girl.
You have loosed my bonds.

Mark 8:27-9:1

8:27Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 30And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

31Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

9:1And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

There are two conversations that need to happen, and both are valuable. The first is that we need to teach men and women the old way. This was taught by everyone: if you are not religious — for singlehood is acceptable, and worthy, and should be cherished — then you should marry well, marry early (have lots of good sex and plenty of kids) and stay married. That a woman should be in a relationship with another — her father if not married, and her husband if so: living single is an artifact of having a militia or police that keep people safe.

But we are not doing that. We are asking people to remain continent. We are educating teenage boys (who are going to think about sex constantly) with girls, and girls with boys. We are not getting young men into apprenticeships, and assume that you have to be 30 to be useful.

The church has one foot in eternity. If Hopkins can teach metaphysics to comfort an young child confronted with death, so can we. It is time for us to be real, not accept the lethe and distractions of this life. For if we do not allow for sorrow, we will not allow for room for joy.


Someone has put the version of the song that Natalie Merchant used at TED up, so here is the poem set to song.