Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Praise of Glory

One of my favorite chapters in the Pauline epistles is the first chapter of Ephesians. It is very rich in consolations flowing from the Holy Spirit and St Paul’s own faith-charged exuberance in the glorious bounty of God’s priceless gifts.

One phrase he likes to repeat is “the praise of his glory.” Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity was a big fan of Paul’s, and she believed that God had given her this as her own new name. She sometimes called herself “Praise of Glory,” for that was what her life was essentially about.

Paul speaks of the praise of God’s glory in two basic ways. First, it is the natural, spontaneous, and only really appropriate response to God’s lavish goodness to us. Paul’s long list of blessings ends with the seal of the Holy Spirit, “the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it—to the praise of his glory” (v. 14). Our inheritance—“every spiritual blessing,” our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins, the grace and love of God—is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit, so what can we do but praise his glory, praise his mercy, praise his everlasting love? This “praise of glory” has basically the same meaning as the “praise of his glorious grace” in verse 6.

This leads us to the other use of the expression. It is not adequate to God’s wondrous generosity for us merely to praise Him once or twice, or from time to time. Like Blessed Elizabeth, we have to be a praise of glory. Therefore Paul declares that we “have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory” (v. 12). That is not only the goal but the present activity of our lives, our appointed task and honor.

God has always wanted his beloved people to live for the praise of his glory. We get a hint of this from the prophet Isaiah. God describes his chosen people thus: “every one who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (43:7). He goes on to say that they are “the people whom I formed for myself, that they might declare my praise” (43:21).

God has made us for his glory, which means that He will be glorified in us and we in Him. We can’t really add anything to the infinite, eternal, utterly transcendent and holy glory that is God’s by nature, but we glorify Him by freely saying “yes,” “amen,” to all He is and does. In that sense we spread his influence in the world, we give Him something unique, which no one else can give, because we ourselves are unique and irreplaceable according to his loving and creative will. God in turn will invite us into the mystery of his own glory, and when we are wholly enraptured in his boundless magnificence and breathtaking beauty, we will desire nothing else but to sing our worship to Him forever.

Now is the time to begin. If we don’t praise his glory in this world, we won’t be eligible to do so in the next. Prayerfully read the Scriptures, which begin to open us up to spiritual depths we have not yet even begun to fathom. Then the Holy Spirit will take it from there. If we can avoid being enamored of the trinkets and baubles of this world, our souls will acquire a taste for true glory. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him…” (vv. 3-4).