Nature is but the outward vestibule
Which God has placed before an unseen shrine,
The Visible is but a fair, bright vale
That winds around the great Invisible;
The Finite -- it is nothing but a smile
That flashes from the face of Infinite;
A smile with shadows on it -- and 'tis sad
Men bask beneath the smile, but oft forget
The loving Face that very smile conceals.
The Changeable is but the broidered robe
Enwrapped about the great Unchangeable;
The Audible is but an echo, faint,
Low whispered from the far Inaudible;
This earth is but an humble acolyte
A-kneeling on the lowest altar-step
Of this creation's temple, at the Mass
Of Supernature, just to ring the bell
At Sanctus! Sanctus! Sanctus! while the world
Prepares its heart for consecration's hour.
Nature is but the ever-rustling veil
Which God is wearing, like the Carmelite
Who hides her face behind her virgin veil
To keep it all unseen from mortal eyes,
Yet by her vigils and her holy prayers,
And ceaseless sacrifices night and day,
Shields souls from sin -- and many hearts from harm.
God hides in nature as a thought doth hide
In humbly-sounding words; and as the thought
Beats through the lowly word like pulse of heart
That giveth life and keepeth life alive,
So God, thro' nature, works on ev'ry soul;
For nature is His word so strangely writ
In heav'n, in all the letters of the stars,
Beneath the stars in alphabets of clouds,
And on the seas in syllables of waves,
And in the earth, on all the leaves of flowers,
And on the grasses and the stately trees,
And on the rivers and the mournful rocks
The word is clearly written; blest are they
Who read the word aright -- and understand.
For God is everywhere -- and He doth find
In every atom which His hand hath made
A shrine to hide His presence, and reveal
His name, love, power, to those who kneel
In holy faith upon this bright below
And lift their eyes, thro' all this mystery,
To catch the vision of the great beyond.
Yea! nature is His shadow, and how bright
Must that face be which such a shadow casts?
We walk within it, for "we live and move
And have our being" in His ev'rywhere.
Why is God shy? Why doth He hide Himself?
The tiniest grain of sand on ocean's shore
Entemples Him; the fragrance of the rose
Folds Him around as blessed incense folds
The altars of His Christ: yet some will walk
Along the temple's wondrous vestibule
And look on and admire -- yet enter not
To find within the Presence, and the Light
Which sheds its rays on all that is without.
And nature is His voice; who list may hear
His name low-murmured every -- everywhere.
In songs of birds, in rustle of the flowers,
In swaying of the trees, and on the seas
The blue lips of the wavelets tell the ships
That come and go, His holy, holy name.
The winds, or still or stormy, breathe the same;
And some have ears and yet they will not hear
The soundless voice re-echoed everywhere;
And some have hearts that never are enthrilled
By all the grand Hosannahs nature sings.
List! Sanctus! Sanctus! Sanctus! without pause
Sounds sweetly out of all creation's heart,
That hearts with power to love may echo back
Their Sanctus! Sanctus! Sanctus! to the hymn.