Thursday, January 20, 2011

What about "the glory that is to be revealed to us"?

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now" (Rom. 8:18-22- ESV).

I spent a good part of yesterday morning discussing what St. Paul writes about in the above passage with my 16 year-old son. It was a good and frank discussion. He understood that it is the nature of such discussions not to settle the matter once and for all, but to springboard you deeper into the Mystery. Orthodox theologian, David Bentley Hart, writing about the post-Christmas tsunami of a few years ago, pointed out that whether or not you believe "in such glory, or [have] faith in its final advent, or can in fact 'see' it even now through the veil of death and our estrangement from God... one should be able to grasp that it is not a glory immediately revealed in cosmic or human history, but rather one that appears before, alongside, within, and beyond that history, always present, yet also deferred..." He concludes this great insight by stating that the glory that is to be revealed "is not simply the hidden rationality of history, but a contrary history that pervades and that will finally overwhelm the world of our fallenness."

I think that too often we approach the way God works in the world and in our lives as something like a "hidden rationality." This is far too mundane for our God. After all, look at His crowning achievement in the world: the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which had to be preceded by His passion and crucifixion. We're always better off just living the circumstances in which we find ourselves because this is precisely where we will catch glimpses of God's glory at work in our lives, which is how God draws you into His contrary history. God changes things by changing you. The means God employs to change you are the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.

Bentley Hart's exposition of the words of St. Paul from his Letter to the Romans is confirmed elsewhere in Scripture. I spent a part of yesterday afternoon reflecting on Revelation chapter twenty-one, in which we read:
"And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away'" (verses 2-4- ESV).

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