Gerard Manley Hopkins on the Keontic Hymn (Phil 2: 5-11)

Photo by Rowan Gillespie

From The Letters of G. M. Hopkins to Robert Bridges (Letter xcix)

Christ’s life and character are such as appeal to all the world’s admiration, but there is one insight St. Paul gives of it which is very secret and seems to me more touching and constraining than anything else:  This mind he says; was in Christ Jesus–he means as man:  being in the form of God—that is, finding, as in the first instant of his incarnation he did, his human nature informed by the godhead—he thought it nevertheless no snatching-matter for him to be equal with God, but annihilated himself, taking the form of a servant; that is, he could not but see that he was, God, but he would see it as if he did not see it, and be it as if he were not instead of snatching at once at what all the time was his, or was himself, he emptied or exhausted himself so far as that was possible, of godhead and behaved only as God’s slave, as his creature, as man, which also he was, and then being in the guise of man humbled himself to death, the death of the cross.  It is this holding of himself back, and not snatching at the truest and highest good, the good that was his right, nay his possession from a past eternity in his other nature, his own being and self, which seems to me the root of all his holiness and the imitation of this the root of all other moral good in other men.

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