Sunday, May 29, 2005

Glory Be!

Those who believe in God tend to worship Him. To know Him is to adore Him. Indeed, the word of the Lord commands it. I usually like to know what I'm doing and why I'm doing it, so the other day I asked myself just what it is I'm doing when I worship God.

First of all, we should look at the terms. I was always taught by the good nuns at school that God alone is to be adored. But how times have changed our usage! Nowadays, not only is God adorable, but so are babies and puppies and anything that is really, really cute. So I don't use that word much any more. "Worship" is better, but many people use even that term for praise of (or lust for) things that are not God. We need to recover our sacred terms and keep them in the realm of the sacred. "Awesome" used to be a magnificent word, too, but now it's as cheap as "cool."

Anyway, it seems to me that what we do when we worship God is, fundamentally, to acknowledge that God is the Creator and we the created, He the Infinite and we the finite, etc. We do this in many ways, with words and rituals and obedience to the divine will. To bow down, kneel, or prostrate before God expresses our acceptance of the truth of this essential relationship. This acknowledgement of who God is and who we are ought to be made (or rather, celebrated) in awe and gratitude, in faith, hope, and love.

To worship God is to glorify Him. Not that we can add anything to his eternal, uncreated, all-holy, magnificent splendor. But when we use, for example, our liturgical doxologies (like "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit...") we are situating ourselves in the divine milieu of truth and love and goodness, we are preparing for our ultimate fulfillment in his heavenly kingdom. We connect with the Source of eternal life and joy as we make our way toward Him, day by day.

Job understood, after a dramatic encounter with God, what it means to worship. Oh, before that he did perform the prescribed sacrifices, but it wasn't until a severe crisis brought him to ask the hardest questions of his life that he became truly aware of God the Creator and Job the creature--and he worshiped Him.

After Job shook his little fist at God in his frustration and pain and confusion, God gave an answer that put things in perspective (He often gives me this kind of answer when I question his ways, too): "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?...Who determined its measurements--surely you know!... Have you commanded the morning and caused the dawn to know its place?" God goes on for a long time with similar answers (Job 38-41). Finally Job gets it, realizes who God is and who he is, realizes the foolishness of his small-minded complaints, repents and worships the Lord--who then rewarded him beyond his wildest dreams.

There's much that can be said about worship, but it starts here: God is God and we are not. Accepting that and living accordingly is the beginning of all wisdom. We ought to be grateful that this mighty Creator God loves us so much that He invites us into his presence, and wants to share with us all his infinite goodness.

Well, let the language change as it will. Come, let us worship Him. Glory be to You, our God, glory be to You!