Gloria in Profundis

I am even more of a G.K. Chesterton groupie than I am a Peter Leithart groupie. So I just had to post this lovely poem Chesterton wrote, with his characteristic paradoxes and ironies. (I’m not such a fan of the limerick-like meter–sounds a little too much like “There once was a woman of Niger…”–but we’ll let that slide, since it’s Chesterton.)

There has fallen on earth for a token
A God too great for the sky.
He has burst out of all things and broken
The bounds of eternity:
Into time and the terminal land
He has strayed like a thief or a lover,
For the wine of the world brims over,
Its splendour is spilt on the sand.

Who is proud when the heavens are humble,
Who mourns if the mountains fall,
if the fixed suns topple and tumble
And a deluge of love drowns all–
Who rears up his head for a crown,
Who holds up his will for a warrant,
Who strives with the starry torrent
When all that is good goes down?

For in dread of such falling and failing
The Fallen Angels fell
Inverted in insolence, scaling
The hanging mountains of hell:
But unmeasured of plummet and rod
Too deep for their sight to scan,
Outrushing the fall of man
Is the height of the fall of God.

Glory to God in the Lowest
The spout of the stars in spate–
Where the thunderbolt thinks to be slowest
And the lightning fears to be late:
As men dive for a sunken gem
Pursuing, we hunt and hound it,
The fallen star that has found it
In the cavern of Bethlehem.

–“Gloria in Profundis,” G. K. Chesterton

“Outrushing the fall of man / Is the height of the fall of God. / Glory to God in the lowest…” Beautiful.

Chesterton expertly turns Platonic hierarchical cosmology on its head, challenging us to think of the universe in terms that do not necessarily equate height and rising up with good, and depth and falling down with bad. Before God raises us up to be seated with Him in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:6), He first descends to us in humility, seating Himself with us in the earthly realm. He brought Himself low so that He could raise us up. He laid down in the manger, reclined at the table, and was laid in the tomb so that we might stand upright in His presence.

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