Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 16, 2007
Prayer prepares us for the glory to come
And it follows – the cross comes before the crown
My Glass is Half Full
By MARK PICKUP
In a sermon to newly baptized Christians, St. Jerome (c. 347-420) imagined what it must be like for the saved to stand before God. He said,
"Now they come forward and they stand in the presence of God. They have come forward before the altar and have looked upon the mystery of the Saviour. I shall go into God's marvellous dwelling place, his house. The house of God is the Church, his marvellous dwelling place, filled with joyful voices giving thanks and praise, filled with all the sounds of festive celebration."
St. Thomas Aquinas told us that our deepest desires can only be satisfied in our heavenly home with the saints. He said, "Only God satisfies, he infinitely exceeds all other pleasures."
St. Augustine exhorted Christians to pray as the Master taught us, for Christ shows us how to receive the desire of our hearts, through prayer.
We learn from St. Augustine that "God's gift is very large indeed, but our capacity is too small and limited to receive it."
This desire does not enter into our hearts - we enter that divine desire. What is that desire? God is the object of our deepest desire and longings. Therefore, to follow Augustine's line of exhortation, God must be the object of our prayer life.
To enter God's glory is to enter an ecstasy beyond earthly human capacity to imagine. Prayer expands the Christian's capacity to anticipate and enter the glory of God.
I believe an underlying and refining purpose of our brief time on earth is to expand our capacity to enter into the full joy of "God's marvellous dwelling place, a house," to use St. Jerome's phrase.
Thomas Aquinas tells us that "Since in their heavenly home the saints will possess God completely, obviously their longing will be satisfied, and their glory will be even greater."
Occasionally, we see the spiritual transformation from earthly to heavenly understanding. This was graphically illustrated in the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 7:55-56). The veil was completely removed from Stephen as the deadly stones rained down upon him.
"But he, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God - and he said, 'Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.' But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him."
Despite being robbed of his earthly life, Stephen's heavenly life (which was about to begin) came into full view. Things of the earth grew dim, yet at that holy moment Stephen drew close to creation in its entirety, or as the Nicene Creed states, "that which is seen and unseen." St. Paul told us that things that are seen are temporary but unseen things are eternal. In the first verse of the next chapter, he writes about God's heavenly and eternal house not made with hands (2 Corinthians 5).
Do not be doubtful. Earlier St. Paul referred to the fact that we see indistinctly and partly while here on earth. In the presence of Jesus Christ, standing face to face - then we will see clearly and understand fully just as we are understood fully.
At present we are incapable of seeing the full glory of what awaits those who love Jesus Christ. The glory of God is too much for any of us to bear in our present state. At best, we can only grasp small wisps and murky inklings of what the unseen spiritual world means and holds. We do not understand. The holiest of people only understand in part. Still, we must prepare ourselves for glory of what is to come.
Prayer is the mechanism God has provided to us to prepare and expand our capacity to experience his glory. Sublime ecstasy will accompany divine desire fulfilled. There, beyond our present experience, beyond nature, we shall eat of the tree of life in our glorified and renewed bodies.
I must avert my thoughts from nagging doubts. That which is decaying here will dance there. There is a spiritual order: The cross comes before the crown.
Through Christ I shall enter God's glory and will say, "I was created for this." In God's dwelling, with saints of the ages, I will understand that I am finally home.
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