God’s Grandeur, Gerard Manley Hopkins's sonnet, comes to mind when I gaze at an image of those three wise men staring upward to the heavenly star above Bethlehem. The iconic imagery, captured throughout the imagination of the world for centuries, depicts an awe-inspired event, one that elicited a trek of faith to find new life. It symbolized a calling towards the hope of humanity’s highest potential, which was found away in a manger, nestled in the arms of an exhausted mother and father, and surrounded by love in the form of animals and comfort of earthen hay after being turned away elsewhere.
Religious meaning aside, the image resonates as an archetypal encounter, which is to say it shines through the actual event or idea to a deeper realization across cultures and individuals. It resonates as a symbolic image. The larger concept of the archetypal Star high above Bethlehem speaks to the world as something shared—God’s marking of the birth of The Christed One—but it is also ripe with personal associations and spiritual connotations beyond the literal interpretation.
The shining star from the story, which astronomers now postulate was a cosmic alignment that created the illusion of a brilliant superstar, captured the attention and hearts of kings who set forth to witness the fulfillment of a long-awaited prophecy—the son of God was born. Certainly, something charged with the grandeur of God was present. In my mind, this imagery mirrors in the story of Christ from womb to tomb and echoes human life.
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Hidden in Hopkins's prose is the heart of an ecopsychologist, one who’s primary psychological orientation is through the relationship with the natural world; one who interprets the awesome elements of Great Mother—"warm breast”—as one with ourselves. His eye for the world’s beauty, including that “smeared with toil,” sees the numinous—inspiration on par with a religious experience—in the world in which we are imbued.
Hidden, too, in the world around us lies the golden nectar, the tonic that will return our hearts and imagination to the “dearest freshness deep down in things.” If we search, we might find space within that shares the same frequency as the almighty Star, such as when we admire a purple mountain painted pink with the sun’s afterglow, commune with soulful softness, eye to eye with a horse, or reciprocate in the joy-filled babble of a baby learning to say hello. Therein is the good stuff. We discover it in the places where our minds go when we conjure the deeper moments in life that lift our hearts up to the world. These images of hope and love swaddled together among the messy aspects of human existence are the very core of God’s grandeur. If only we could always see the beautiful vision, perhaps we would ease up on ourselves and those around us and know we are each equally made in perfect image and reciprocal value for the world around us—our “bright wings.”
That is my wish for the world.
Love and much joy for a blessed New Year, Tree