Monday, September 17, 2007


The opening lines of the Isa Upanishad in Swami Parminanda's translation read, "All this, whatsoever exists in the universe, should be covered by the Lord....We cover all things with the Lord by perceiving the Divine Presence everywhere." Since I read this I've been mulling it over, trying to bring it into my Christian perspective with the aid of some ideas of Gerard Manly Hopkins that I found by way of William Short's book on Franciscan spirituality.

According to Short, Hopkins has the idea that all things bring forth Christ into the world by doing what they are. "The grape grapes, the star stars, a volcano volcanoes. Each, doing this, is being itself: doing what it is. Hopkins calls this 'do-being'. This do-being is doing Christ." Of course, Hopkins being who he was tended to say it more like this:
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves - goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is -
Christ - for Christ play in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.
So I've been trying to get in touch with this sort of view of the world. And so as I was riding to work today, I was thinking about this, and I was thinking how it's easy to see trees, for instance, as being God-covered or even the flow of traffic or a well-made road. But what about the trash on the side of the road. Does trash trash, or is this a defilement of its nature? How can trash on the side of the road be God-covered?

And this led me to wonder, can sin be God-covered? Naturally, the verbal cues here took me to the Atonement as I thought how all sin is covered by the blood of Christ, but that didn't really meet what I was looking for.

Then I connected this with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The man who fell among robbers has a certain affinity with the trash along the side of the road, and the Samaritan made him God-covered by bringing God into the situation through compassion.

And so I thought how there must be a distinction to be made between sin and what is despoiled by sin, but then I thought that likely God doesn't see it that way. Doesn't God see the robbers as creatures despoiled by sin as much as their victim? And here I met an obstacle. There's a clear class of villians in the Bible. Jesus has compassion on sinners and tax collectors, but he has strong words for the Pharisees, and beyond them we have the larger shadow of Caesar and Rome. How do they become God-covered?

My intuition is that Jesus' primary response to them is to allow himself to be crucified, but I haven't worked out how this fits.


D.W. Congdon said...

I want to say that we are all "God-covered" because of what Christ did for us on the cross. And that includes the apparent "villains" in the NT. It includes, also, the villains of the OT and the villains of today, including the dictators and murderers and sexual offenders. In fact, we can say that all creation is God-covered. The mystery of Christ is, as Maximus Confessor says, a cosmic mystery.

Andy said...

I completely agree. All of creation is God-covered. I'm of the opinion that any proper preentation of the gospel at least sounds like universalism.

The problem is, what then do you do with judgment? You can't just get rid of judgment in the Bible. It seems to me that the New Testament is telling us that even judgment is God-covered. I'm just trying to get my head wrapped around what that means.

Diane said...

btw, I LOVE that poem. first heard a prof walk into the room and recite it one day in college: when she started "I say more: the just man justices... keeps grace... " well, my mouth just fell open.

It's a sonnet, you know.

Andy said...

Yeah. I tend to be poetry challenged, but that one breaks through my dull capacity for perception and appreciation.