… vastness blurs and time beats level.  Enough! the Resurrection,/A heart’s-clarion!  Away grief grasping, joyless days, dejection/Across my foundering deck shone/A beacon, an eternal beam … I am all at once what Christ is, since he was what I am …

Gerard Manley Hopkins,

in That Nature Is a Heraclitean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection

+ + +

Hopkins wrote this in the late 19th century.  One wonders (and hopes that) if alive today he might express that same view.   Yes, still the “vastness blurs and the time beats level.” But so much has changed!  So much.  Indeed, our culture is more inclined to be occupied by those who do not believe than those who believe.

Amid today’s godless secularism where many are actively hostile to God and particularly to Christianity, one must ask does the Resurrection still serve as the “heart’s clarion?”  Does it still dissolve grief for us, give each joy to our days and banish dejection?

Do we experience Christ as Hopkins and others routinely did?

This is the question today in the U.S. and in the West.

How did it come to having to ask this question?  The answer requires looking at history with a feel for psychology, philosophy, social theory, theology, spirituality, the ebb and flow of political existence, and cultural criticism.

Until the late Middle Ages those in Europe believed that God governed the natural world, that God orchestrated large and small events and ordained their Christian societies.  As philosopher Charles Taylor says their’s was an “enchanted world” in which God assured order and the victory of good over evil.

Yet, in that latter portion of the Middle Ages a sentiment arose within the Church and society that the greater populace fell short of a daily piety and the Church undertook to reconcile the lives of the laity with those living within professed religious congregations. Such an effort could not but impose on the laity a life style that would chafe the average person.

By the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation arose as a sharp rebuff to these Catholic efforts.  In this reaction, Protestantism provoked egalitarianism (a stimulus in time to the development of democracies).

More to the point, the Protestants took a particular aim at reducing the presence of “magic” (mystical beliefs) in religious life and experience.  (Illustratively, one can, if one visits Glasgow’s St. Mungo Cathedral, see a beautiful structure stripped of its ancient stained glass windows, religious statues and artifacts previously displayed in this Pre-Reformation Cathedral.)

This shift away from a mystical or sacramental experience of the natural world made way for the importance of the singular “self” and accelerated and examination of the world without regard to God’s governance.  In essence, the door swung open to the primacy of man sans God and elevated human reason over the Divine and life divinely experienced.

In essence, a sacramental and enchanted life diminished and we elevated man and reason free of God – a more secular being than we once had been.

Shalom.

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