From the time I was an undergraduate at Georgetown, I have loved the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Only in the last several years did I read any of his prose.
In 1881-82, Hopkins, a Jesuit priest, wrote some reflections on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Last night, during the evening prayer that I led, I used as a reading an excerpt from Hopkins reflection on the opening exercise of the Spiritual Exercises – the First Principle and Foundation.
Homo creates est – Creation, the making out of nothing, bringing from nothing into being: once there was nothing, then lo, this huge world was there. How great a work of power!
The loaf is made with flour; the house with bricks; the plough, the cannon, the locomotive, the warship or iron – all of things that were before, of matter; but the world, with the flour, the grain, the wheatear, the seed, the ground, the sun, the rain; with the bricks, the clay, the earth; with the iron and the mine, the fuel and the furnace, was made from nothing. And they are made in time and with labour, the world in no time with a word. Man cannot create a single speck, God creates all that is besides himself….
Why did God create? – Not for sport, not for nothing. Every sensible man has a purpose in all he does, every workman has a use for every object he makes. Much more has God a purpose, an end, a meaning in his work. He meant the world to give him praise, reverence, and service; to give him glory. It is like a garden, a field he sows: what should it bear him? Praise, reverence and service; it should yield him glory…
The sun and the stars shining glorify God. They stand where he placed them, they move where he bid them. “The heavens declare the glory of God.” They glorify God, but they do not know it. The birds sing to him, the thunder speaks of his terror, the lion is like his strength, the sea is like his greatness, the honey like his sweetness; they are something like him, they make him known, they tell of him, they give him glory, but they do not know they do, they do not know him, they never can…
But amidst them all is man…Man was created. Like the rest then to praise, reverence, and serve God; to give him glory. He does so, even by his being, beyond all visible creatures: “What a piece of work is man!”…But man can know God, can mean to give him glory. This then was why he was made, to give God glory and to mean to give it; to praise God freely, willingly to reverence him, gladly to serve him. Man was made to give, and mean to give God glory.
I was made for this, each one of us was made for this.
For this we were made: to praise, reverence and serve God – freely, willingly and gladly.