Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Give God the Glory

We find in Holy Scripture and sing in the Divine Liturgy: “Heaven and earth are full of Your glory!” Indeed, if your eyes are open, there is much glory to behold. We are fallen and the original Paradise is no more, but numerous vestiges still remain. There are still plenty of flowers and stars and mountains and oceans to keep us marveling, not only at the awesome creative power of God, but also of his sensitive touch in producing glorious yet delicate beauty even in our own back yards.

The glory that creation gives God just by being itself is one thing. But God receives with even more delight the glory we freely and consciously give Him who has created all the other glories. We glorify Him through worship and thanksgiving, through the acknowledgement of his superior wisdom in guiding the events of our lives, through the sacrifices we offer out of love for God and for our brothers and sisters.

In the Byzantine Divine Office, glory is one of the two major themes of the liturgical texts (the other is repentance—an interesting but theologically sound combination). We repeatedly sing: “O All-holy Trinity, glory to You!” “O Christ our God, glory to You!” “Glory to your precious Cross!” "Glory to your holy Resurrection!” And so on, for all the mysteries of our salvation. A man from a different tradition visited here a number of years ago, and I asked him what he thought was the main difference between our tradition and his, and he immediately answered: “mine lacks the glory.”

God is also glorified in the works He performs to heal and sanctify his people. I used to write a column in a former monastery publication. I called it “Give God the Glory,” and it consisted of testimonies to the presence and activity of God in people’s lives. It’s easy to give God the glory when some dramatic and personally beneficial wonder is worked, but do we always give Him the glory even for the little things? If, for example, someone comments favorably on one of my blog posts, I might be tempted to think: “Yeah, I did do a good job on that one, didn’t I!” Rather, I should give God the glory for his generous inspiration which somehow filtered through my little brain.

On the other hand, we ought to acknowledge the natural gifts God has given us and realize that we do in fact contribute something essential to our own works. The example of the other extreme of giving God the glory (which nicely puts things in perspective) was given by someone who said: suppose I compliment someone on his piano playing, and he responds, “Oh, don’t give me the credit, it was God.” I might then think to myself: Well, if it was God, I should expect Him to do better than that! Everything comes from God, but He does choose to work with us and expects us to make a real contribution to what we do together with Him. Another friend says this when he does something good for someone and they praise him for it: “Give the glory to God, you’re worth it!” This puts the emphasis on God and the other person as well.

If we have a basic and honest humility, we will easily find the way to give God the glory in all things and at the same time acknowledge that with the grace He gives us we can be humanly creative and constructive. The worst thing is if we do not give God the glory at all, but reserve it to ourselves. Here’s what happens then: “On an appointed day, Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and made an oration to them. And the people shouted, ‘The voice of a god, and not of a man!’ Immediately an angel of the Lord smote him, because he did not give God the glory. And he was eaten by worms and died” (Acts 12:21-23).

So let us open our eyes and see heaven and earth full of glory; let us glorify the Lord through prayer and worship and service and the creative work of our hands and minds. Let us humbly acknowledge that the Almighty has done great things for and in and through us, because He respects the dignity and freedom He has bestowed upon us. And in all things, in the appropriate form that fits the occasion, make sure you give God the glory!