July/August 2018: Gerard Manley Hopkins & the Grandeur of God

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Gerard Manley Hopkins and the Blessed Virgin Mary – Bernadette Waterman Ward

The first time the poet Gerard Manley mentions the Blessed Virgin Mary is in a letter to his father, who is dismayed that his Oxford-educated son is on the verge of converting to the Catholic Church. Young Gerard writes:

I shall hold as a Catholic what I have long held as an Anglican, that literal truth of our Lord’s words by which I learn that the least fragment of the consecrated elements in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar is the whole Body of Christ born of the Blessed Virgin, before which the whole host of saints and angels as it lies on the altar trembles with adoration. This belief once got is the life of the soul and when I doubted it I shd. become an atheist the next day (October 16–17, 1866).

The first words of Hopkins about the Blessed Virgin acknowledge her as the Mother of the Eucharist. Already the young poet understands the eternal relation of the Incarnate Creator to the world. Mary is the point at which the Eternal Creator chooses to take flesh from a creature. Because God is eternal, the unity of God with His creatures is not bound by time, or by place. No time is future to Him; no time is past. His spiritual relationship with His saints is always present to Him; and so His Body is always the Body mothered by Mary—wherever and whenever he chooses His Body to be present.

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