“Philosophy is written in this grand book — I mean the universe — which stands continually open to our gaze” (Galileo Galilei).
SIMPLE THINGS HAVE A HEARTWARMING BEAUTY THAT IS DELIGHTFUL, BUT WE ALSO NEED THE THRILLING JOY THAT ONLY GRANDEUR CAN PROVIDE. It might wear us out if it happened too frequently, but now and then we need to have our hearts ravished by the pleasure of that which is glorious and majestic. Magnificent beauty awes us, enticing us with realities beyond this world.
As Galileo knew from firsthand observation, the universe is a “grand book . . . which stands continually open to our gaze.” It is “charged with the grandeur of God,” as Gerard Manley Hopkins famously said. Three thousand years ago, King David of Israel was filled with the same sense of wonder: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” So if we want to see grandeur, it’s all around us. It’s in the trees, the grass, and the clouds, not to mention the mountains, the oceans, and the stars.
But we ourselves have an even greater grandeur. Made in God’s image, we are personal beings, able to respond to Him with intellect, emotion, and will — and despite all the brokenness and suffering that we have brought into the world, we still bear traces of our Father’s glory. Indeed, it is in suffering that our dignity can be seen most poignantly. “Many men owe the grandeur of their lives to their tremendous difficulties” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon). Our tears (and our yearnings) can teach us a good deal about the glory we were meant to enjoy.
As great as it is, of course, our glory is only a reflection of God, and when we speak of “grandeur” it should be God that we have in mind most of all. We can’t fully comprehend or describe His majesty, but attempting to do so is the highest use of the human mind. Feasting on even a portion of God’s grandeur is a sumptuous banquet indeed.
Timeless, spaceless, single, lonely,
Yet sublimely Three,
Thou are grandly, always, only
God is Unity!
Lone in grandeur, lone in glory,
Who shall tell thy wondrous story?
(Frederick William Faber)