11 - TO GLORIFY GOD, Dec 5, 2021

Ephesians 2.14-22

Luke 17.12-19

‘Were not any found to glorify God except this foreigner?’ the LORD says. To glorify God, doxa-ein, standing up straight, ortho-stenai, to become Orthodox in truth, this is the destiny to which we are called and for which we were created. So, were not any found who wanted to become truly human?

But there is a theological vision here that cannot be seen except with spiritual eyes. And the Orthodox Church gives to us Her spiritual eyes, if we would receive them, so that we may begin to see the glory of the theological vision proclaimed in the Holy Gospel of Her LORD and Bridegroom.

We might begin to open our eyes in the Church’s spiritual eyes by asking this question, which itself comes into view when we contemplate the Gospel from within the theological vision of the Church: how can one glorify God if the Glory of God is not in him, if he has not become a ‘partaker of the divine glory of God,’ to paraphrase St Peter (2 Pt 1.4)?

We are raised from darkness to light in the Glory of God, the Holy Spirit. We are cleansed from the leprosy of sin, that corrupts the soul as leprosy corrupts the body, when the Glory of God shines on us, and we receive it. We receive the Glory of God when we receive the Church, and when we are received into the Church, for the Church is the Body of Christ, His crucified, buried and risen Body. The Church is the Body of the Christ who is Himself the Radiance of the Father (Heb 1.3); He is the only-begotten God, He Who Is in the Bosom of the Father (Jn 1.18); that is, He Who Is in the Glory of the Father before the world was (Jn 17.5) and who, on the Night before His Passion in the flesh, asked His Father that this Glory be given to His disciples so that they could become one with Him in the Glory of the Father that He had with the Father before the world was.

To glorify God, then, is the activity of participating in God, of becoming one with God. It is the activity, let’s say the fragrance that arises spontaneously from the soul that has been saturated with the Glory of God that was poured out on all flesh from the LORD’s ineffable self-emptying to the point of death on the Tree, when He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us—He was made to be leprous for us—that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.

Do you see, then, that glorifying God in Holy Eucharist, Holy Thanksgiving, rises up in us from receiving the Glory of God in us? We see in this morning’s Gospel that this Glory of God that is poured out on us in the mystery of the LORD Jesus Christ is cleansing. The cleansing of the ten lepers is but an image of the cleansing of our spiritual leprosy in the Savior’s death and burial. As the LORD was placed in the Tomb, so the Glory of God is placed in our souls and bodies in the mysteries of the Church. As the LORD illumined the darkness of the Tomb when He was placed in it (Lk 23.54), so the Glory of God illumines the darkness of our souls and bodies, when we receive Him into our souls and bodies. And as the Glory of the LORD emptied the Tomb of death when the LORD was placed in the Tomb, so the Glory of the LORD empties our hearts that were dead in our spiritual leprosy when the LORD’s Body and Blood are placed on our tongue and received into our bodies. Like the LORD’s Tomb, the tomb of our heart is transfigured into the bridal chamber that opens out onto the deep beyond all things.

To glorify God from a thankful heart, then, means that one has been overshadowed by the Glory of God, which is the Holy Spirit of God. It means that one is becoming light as God is light, righteous as God is righteous. For one is becoming one with God. He now lives in the love of God. He lives in the eternal life of God that is not subject to death. Or, he lives in the death of God that destroys death and transfigures our dying in this world with all its sufferings, trials and afflictions into purifying fires that make our faith more precious than gold, if we endure with patience and in faith so that we are  made ‘worthy’ of God, (Ecclesiasticus 7) ‘strong enough’ to receive God, knowing that as we die daily in faith, our inner man is being renewed. We are being built by God into a house not made by hands, a house that is eternal in the heavens, a house that is radiant and fragrant with the Glory of God. And this mystery of our salvation—because it is God Himself who, in His Glory, is working in us (Phil 2.12-13), cleansing us daily as we confess our sins, our leprosy (1 Jn 1.9-10)—is expressed, spontaneously, naturally, in glorifying God, that is in Holy Thanksgiving, in Holy Eucharist, for we are becoming partakers of the divine nature, partakers of the divine Glory, partakers of God Himself as we give ourselves to Him who gives Himself to us for our cleansing, our healing, our eternal life, our glory.

Following St Peter, we are being smoothed by the LORD Himself as living stones that He can use for the building of His Holy Temple not built by hands but by the LORD God Himself, an eternal dwelling filled with the Glory of God; and immersed through the Holy Font in the Living Waters of this Glory of God that was poured out onto all the earth when the soldier pierced His side, we, having become children of Light, children of divine Glory, we become Orthodox, lepers who have been cleansed, presenting ourselves to the true Priest, Jesus Christ, standing up straight and glorifying God in Holy Thanksgiving.

So, how can we possibly receive this Glory of God if we do not first confess our spiritual leprosy and cry out to the LORD, ‘Have mercy on us!’ We cannot for if we are not confessing our sins, our spiritual leprosy, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. We are making God a liar and His WORD, the Light of His Glory is not in us (1 Jn 1.8-10).

The confession of sins, then, is the beginning of our turning to Him Who is Himself the Glory of God, Who alone can cleanse us and save us and restore us to our original destiny of becoming partakers of the divine nature.

‘Go, show yourselves to the priest,’ the LORD directs the lepers. He gives them a commandment that they can obey, for it is through obedience to the commandments of God that we find the road to our cleansing and to the eternal life of God. This tells us that we begin to partake of the Glory of God when we begin to follow the LORD’s commandments. We see it in this morning’s Gospel. As soon as they obeyed the LORD’s command, and began making their way to the priest, the lepers were cleansed.

They made a good beginning. But to make a good end requires that our heart be tested. Having received the cleansing and joy of God’s Glory, do we love the LORD enough that we are willing now, in holy thanksgiving, to deny ourselves for His sake that He can make us into His holy temple, not just cleansed but glorified as we become one with the Father in the Glory of the Father through obedience to His Son? Until we have been tested, and have chosen the LORD as our God and Savior, we must understand that ‘sin’ is still present in us; it is in our heart where our will and love originate until in our heart, all leprous and sinful, we choose to deny ourselves for the sake of Christ and to be filled with His cleansing and life-giving Glory.   

And so, St Macarius the Egyptian, for example, instructs us: ‘The man who desires to come to the LORD, and to be found worthy of eternal life, and to become a dwelling place of Christ and to be filled with the Holy Spirit, the Glory of God, must begin by first believing the LORD steadfastly. He should persevere continually in prayer, continually waiting in expectant faith for the visitation and help of the LORD, keeping the aim of his mind always fixed upon this. Then he should force himself to every good work and to all the LORD’s commandments, because of the sin (leprosy) that is present in him. For example, let him force himself to humility of mind, not seeking honor or praise, or the glory of men from anyone but always having the LORD only before his eyes, and His commandments, and desiring to please Him only in meekness of heart. Then the LORD, beholding such a purpose, and his good diligence, and how he forces himself to the remembrance of the LORD and compels his heart, whether it wants to or not, to what is good, and to humility and to meekness and to charity, and guides it to the best of his power by force, shows mercy on him and delivers him from his enemies and from indwelling sin (spiritual leprosy), filling him with the Holy Spirit (the Glory of God); and thus afterwards, without force or labor (spontaneously, naturally) he does all the commandments of the LORD in truth, or rather the LORD does His own commandments in him, and the [one who before was all leprous and sinful] brings forth the fruits of the Spirit purely.’ (Hom 19.1-2)

For, then we have become temples of God, filled with His Glory; and it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us. Amen!