Monday, November 19, 2012
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest
Although George Herbert was committed to the Protestant religion, of which he was an ordained minister, his poem on prayer is still superb, and it seems applicable to the ancient Catholic liturgy. Obviously 'exalted Manna' is a reference to the Eucharist, and it seems reasonable to think of 'heaven in ordinary, man well drest' as an echo of the 'Sunday best' clothes we (clergy and laity alike) put on to participate in that liturgy which is eternal, indeed everyday and 'ordinary', in heaven.
You can't go wrong with the 'metaphysical' poets, of course, because every phrase a dozen meanings. Herbert was one of my own set texts at A Level, and he's stayed with me ever since.
Prayer the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgramage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav'n and earth;
Engine against th'Almightie, sinners towre,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-daies world-transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear;
Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bels beyond the starres heard, the souls bloud,
The land of spices; something understood.
Just another Solemn Mass at SS Gregory and Augustine's, Oxford, just another green Sunday After Pentecost. Just a plain old Chant Mass sung by the Schola Abelis, with the Offertory verses, Communion verses, and Mass IV. De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine! Out of the depths I cried to Thee, O Lord! But he has heard the voice of His Church: the church bells are heard beyond the stars, in heaven itself.