On a recent Lenten retreat the G. M. Hopkins poem, God’s Grandeur, was used as part of the reflection time. When I first was diagnosed a thoughtful friend sent me a copy of The Word in the Wilderness: A Poem a Day for Lent and Easter by Malcolm Guite, a delightful poet that I met on another retreat and a good friend of my friend. I had recently pulled it out again because the resources I have been using this Lent were not grounding me. Today’s poem was Hopkins’. I smiled because during the retreat I had a difficult time settling into the poem because I did not understand what the context the word charge was supposed to mean from the line The world is charged with the grandeur of God. I wrestled with the various meanings of that single, loaded word. The question to ponder had also to do with me being charged with the grandeur of God. I went round in circles for the first while, wondering what definition to use. Guite, a brilliant scholar, also raises this question of what the poet meant.
Guite gives only three meanings:
-filled completely full and packed down as in gunpowder in a musket
-a charge of electricity that leaps from one hidden element to the other
-charged as in given a task to do
Each of these definitions fit the intent of the line–the reader can almost see the sparks in the air when the poem continues with It will flame out, like shining from shook foil — God’s grandeur cannot be harnessed. The natural world is charged with this spectacular energy that anyone really paying attention has to be electrified with. That is what ran through my mind originally when I sat to pray with the poem and then began to marvel at the other meanings and then got caught up in what does this really mean. The world is each one of us and we have the duty to shake that foil causing it to reflect the grandeur of God so that it can flame out and allow people and places to shine with that Glory. What was my part in this charging? What was I being called to do? Guite references Matthew 24.27 suggesting that the Gospel is a charge in a world that illuminates the world like lightening. Is this in fact not what we are all charged to do? Are we not all called to bring a dazzling and breathtaking Light to our world?
The next line of the poem –