the world is like an oilpress

Thus the world is like an oilpress: under pressure. If you are the dregs of the oil you are carried away through the sewer; if you are genuine oil you will remain in the vessel. But to be under pressure is inevitable. Observe the dregs, observe the oil. Pressure takes place ever in the world, as for instance, through famine, war, want, inflation, indigence, mortality, rape, avarice; such are the pressures on the poor, the worries of the states: we have evidence of them. …We have found men who grumble under these pressures and who say: “how bad are these Christian times!” …Thus speak the dregs of the oil which run away through the sewer; their color is black because they blaspheme: they lack splendor. The oil has splendor. For here another sort of man is under the same pressure and friction which polishes him, for is it not the very friction which refines him?

From Augustine’s Sermons (ed. Denis, xxiv. 11. and quoted in Meaning in History by Karl Lowith).

I’m not sure that Augustine lists some of the most intense and subtle pressures in this world, and I wish that he more fully identified the splendor (or the inevitable response that this splendor elicits from the meek and hungry): the ongoing expression of broken hallelujahs under pressure (as sung about by Leonard Cohen). However, this image of Christ (“another sort of man”) under pressure is profoundly true and echos the “ooze of oil” that is so central an image in the poem “God’s Grandeur” by Hopkins.

One thought on “the world is like an oilpress

  1. Interesting, nice connection btw Augustine and Hopkins. Hopkins was certainly a man under pressure and it produced much of his work that we cherish today. Remarkable response to the pressure you talk about.

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