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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Reading sacred poetry

It's a way to summon the joy and wonder within us

During college Mary Ann went to a “Religion in Life” retreat that was totally devoted to discussing poetry. Making the connection between a wide variety of poems and the Christian faith wasn’t easy for this political science major, whose only experience of sacred poetry previously had been the psalms.

Frederic, on the other hand, has lovedpoetry since he was a young boy. In high school he spent months reading and rereading the poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, a Christian mystic who translated the doctrines of his faith into bold and sensuous forms.

PhotodiscHopkins’ most famous lines appear in “God’s Grandeur,” one of the poems studied on Mary Ann’s retreat and Frederic’s favorite: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God / It will flame out, like shining from shook foil. ... Because the Holy Ghost over thebent / World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings” (Hopkins: The Mystic Poets; Skylight Paths, 2004). This is a wonderful example of a sacramental understanding of God present in everything.


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