“Great as no goddess’s Was deemèd, dreamèd”

Today is, in the older Roman calendar, the Feast of the Queenship of Mary.  In the Novus Ordo calendar, this Feast was transferred to mere Memorial status on 22 August.  In the Novus Ordo calendar, 31 May is the Feast of the Visitation.

Pius XII wrote of Our Blessed Mother:

“Let all Christians, therefore, glory in being subjects of the Virgin Mother of God, who, while wielding royal power, is on fire with a mother’s love.”

Pius, in his 1954 encyclical Letter Ad caeli Reginam, proclaimed the Queenship of Mary and established her Feast.  He included in his encyclical many patristic references, amongst which is a quote from St Gregory Nazianzen (d 390) calling Mary, “Mother of the King of the universe,” and the “Virgin Mother who brought forth the King of the whole world.” There are also liturgical references from both East and West, including lines from the Tract of the Feast of our Lady of Sorrows: “Near the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ there stood, sorrowful, the Blessed Mary, Queen of Heaven and Queen of the World.”  Since her earliest years, Holy Church has revered the Mother of God.

Here is a marvelous exhortation from Pius’ encyclical no less suitable for our own day and devotional lives than it was in 1954:

  1. Let all, therefore, try to approach with greater trust the throne of grace and mercy of our Queen and Mother, and beg for strength in adversity, light in darkness, consolation in sorrow; above all let them strive to free themselves from the slavery of sin and offer an unceasing homage, filled with filial loyalty, to their Queenly Mother. Let her churches be thronged by the faithful, her feast-days honored; may the beads of the Rosary be in the hands of all; may Christians gather, in small numbers and large, to sing her praises in churches, in homes, in hospitals, in prisons. May Mary’s name be held in highest reverence, a name sweeter than honey and more precious than jewels; may none utter blasphemous words, the sign of a defiled soul, against that name graced with such dignity and revered for its motherly goodness; let no one be so bold as to speak a syllable which lacks the respect due to her name.

There is lovely poetry in the feasts of our Faith, particularly when we celebrate the Blessed Virgin.  We could spend a moment with her today through the lens provided by one of the great poets of Modern English.

Hopkins is not easy.  First, simply try reading it through, aloud, and quickly.  Then go back and savor more slowly.

The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1918

Wild air, world-mothering air,
Nestling me everywhere,
That each eyelash or hair
Girdles; goes home betwixt
The fleeciest, frailest-flixed
Snowflake; that ‘s fairly mixed
With, riddles, and is rife
In every least thing’s life;
This needful, never spent,
And nursing element;
My more than meat and drink,
My meal at every wink;
This air, which, by life’s law,
My lung must draw and draw
Now but to breathe its praise,
Minds me in many ways
Of her who not only
Gave God’s infinity
Dwindled to infancy
Welcome in womb and breast,
Birth, milk, and all the rest
But mothers each new grace
That does now reach our race–
Mary Immaculate,
Merely a woman, yet
Whose presence, power is
Great as no goddess’s
Was deemèd, dreamèd; who
This one work has to do–
Let all God’s glory through,
God’s glory which would go
Through her and from her flow
Off, and no way but so.

I say that we are wound
With mercy round and round
As if with air: the same
Is Mary, more by name.
She, wild web, wondrous robe,
Mantles the guilty globe,
Since God has let dispense
Her prayers his providence:
Nay, more than almoner,
The sweet alms’ self is her
And men are meant to share
Her life as life does air.

If I have understood,
She holds high motherhood
Towards all our ghostly good
And plays in grace her part
About man’s beating heart,
Laying, like air’s fine flood,
The deathdance in his blood;
Yet no part but what will
Be Christ our Saviour still.
Of her flesh he took flesh:
He does take fresh and fresh,
Though much the mystery how,
Not flesh but spirit now
And makes, O marvellous!
New Nazareths in us,
Where she shall yet conceive
Him, morning, noon, and eve;
New Bethlems, and he born
There, evening, noon, and morn–
Bethlem or Nazareth,
Men here may draw like breath
More Christ and baffle death;
Who, born so, comes to be
New self and nobler me
In each one and each one
More makes, when all is done,
Both God’s and Mary’s Son.

Again, look overhead
How air is azurèd;
O how! nay do but stand
Where you can lift your hand
Skywards: rich, rich it laps
Round the four fingergaps.
Yet such a sapphire-shot,
Charged, steepèd sky will not
Stain light. Yea, mark you this:
It does no prejudice.
The glass-blue days are those
When every colour glows,
Each shape and shadow shows.
Blue be it: this blue heaven
The seven or seven times seven
Hued sunbeam will transmit
Perfect, not alter it.
Or if there does some soft,
On things aloof, aloft,
Bloom breathe, that one breath more
Earth is the fairer for.
Whereas did air not make
This bath of blue and slake
His fire, the sun would shake,
A blear and blinding ball
With blackness bound, and all
The thick stars round him roll
Flashing like flecks of coal,
Quartz-fret, or sparks of salt,
In grimy vasty vault.

So God was god of old:
A mother came to mould
Those limbs like ours which are
What must make our daystar
Much dearer to mankind;
Whose glory bare would blind
Or less would win man’s mind.
Through her we may see him
Made sweeter, not made dim,
And her hand leaves his light
Sifted to suit our sight.

Be thou then, O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere;
My happier world, wherein
To wend and meet no sin;
Above me, round me lie
Fronting my froward eye
With sweet and scarless sky;
Stir in my ears, speak there
Of God’s love, O live air,
Of patience, penance, prayer:
World-mothering air, air wild,
Wound with thee, in thee isled,
Fold home, fast fold thy child.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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4 Responses to “Great as no goddess’s Was deemèd, dreamèd”

  1. Mike says:

    Supremely beautiful poetry, fitting for Our Queen of Heaven!

  2. Joe in Canada says:

    Ahem. Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ.

    [All the more a condemnation of the present generation.]

  3. donato2 says:

    Ah the good old days, when the Pope was wholly Catholic and helped us delight in the Church’s treasures.

  4. Sandy says:

    I am honored to have a rosary blessed by Pius XII. My father was in Rome with other military personnel for an audience with the Holy Father. My childhood treasures of the Faith are even more meaningful today.