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Who With the Father and the Son Together is Worshipped and Glorified

December 8, 2013

first-ecumenical-councilThe Nicene Creed, the ancient symbol of faith, is the fruit of the lived experience of those friends of God who have beheld the uncreated light of the Holy Trinity and entered into intimate communion with our Lord. Like Saint John the Theologian, they say to us, “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have communion with us: and truly our communion is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). In this particular article of the creed, they provide more than a reference to the divinity of the three Persons of the Trinity. They indicate that we are called to worship and glorify the Holy Trinity, even as the Angels do in heaven, chanting “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord Sabaoth: the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3).

But what does it mean to worship and glorify? The Greek word translated as worship in the creed (προσκυνέω) means literally to prostrate oneself in adoration, kneeling down with one’s head lowered to the ground, as the faithful do during Lent in the Orthodox Church. Etymologically, it is composed of the prefix for moving towards someone and the root meaning to kiss. In other words, to worship God means to humble one’s entire self before God, to place oneself completely at the mercy of God, to move towards God, body and soul, and ultimately to come to know God intimately and face to face. The Greek word translated as glorify in the creed (δοξάζω) implies seeing the glory of God, beholding the uncreated Light, and knowing God’s rule in a state in which the smallest trace of selfishness disappears before the effulgence of the love of God that passeth all understanding. To be glorifed means nothing less than to experience the deifying grace of God that transfigures a human being into a friend of God in the likeness of the Most High. Thus, being worshipped and glorified refers to the beginning and to the culmination of the Christian life in reference to our Maker and Redeemer. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are worshipped in our humble repentance and glorified in our becoming like Christ in virtue, in holiness, in compassion, and in love.

Turning to the experience of worship in the Old and New Testament, we can see these two aspects of our relationship to God with great clarity. The Old Testament prophets, priests, kings, and patriarchs initially understood divine worship in terms of sacrifice, meaning the blood sacrifice of oxen, rams, goats, and lambs in the Temple performed by the appointed priest. It involved a letting go of what was precious and useful for an originally, nomadic people as well as a turning of the attention from earth to heaven. It was seen as a way of making amends for wrongs committed, both in knowledge and in ignorance. And yet, this was not yet the worship that God desired of his chosen flock, for the worship of God is meant for the transformation of man. It was a man after God’s own heart, David, the Prophet and King, who understood this well, especially after his sin with Bathsheba. In Psalm 51, he described the heart of worship, containing all the previous notions of sacrifice, but internalizing what was most important: “For Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: Thou delightest not in burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a humbled heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.” The breaking of the arrogance, pride, and selfishness in the human spirit and the humbling of the heart are what constitute worship. It is ultimately not about postures or actions, but a way of being in God’s presence and in the presence of our brothers and sisters in Christ. This offering of sincere humility and repentance is how we are called to worship the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

In the New Testament, on the night in which our Lord was betrayed, worship was taken to another level. Recapitulating all the sacrifices of the Old Testament, manifesting all the humility of the Prophet David in the washing of the disciples’ feet, the Lord Christ initiated them into the bloodless perfect sacrifice of the mystical supper in which He offered Himself, His very Body and Blood, to His beloved disciples and through them to the entire Church. In this sacrifice of the New Covenant, Christ employs the agency of the priest to offer to the Father the perfect sacrifice through the action of the Holy Spirit.  Each Christian who participates through faith and love in the Divine Liturgy offers his own life in union with the unique sacrifice of Christ as an offering and an act of worship to the Father through the Son and by the action of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps even more significantly with respect to understanding the present article in the Creed, at the Mystic Supper, God was not only worshiped, He was also glorified. Repentance finds its fulfillment and perfection in communion. As Christ relates, “now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in Him” (John 13:31). But moreover, the Apostles partook of that glory as the Lord relates, “And all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine; and I am glorified in them” (John 17:10), for in receiving Christ, they received the very source of divine glory.

In a wondrous fashion beyond human comprehension, the Holy Trinity is glorified each time the repentant believer achieves intimate communion with God in love through the act of worship.  In his treatise Adversus Haereses, Saint Irenaeus writes, “the glory of God is man fully alive.”  For Saint Irenaeus, “fully alive” implies the full participation in communion with God, which is achieved only when the soul is purified of the passions, illumined through inner prayer, and made into a vessel capable of receiving the fullness of divine life with which God desires to bathe His children. Fully alive means fully in the likeness, fully glorified, and fully perfected in Christ.

In this creedal statement, we find the alpha and the omega of the Christian life: humble repentance and union with God. If worshipping and glorifying the Holy Trinity were ingrained in our souls as core beliefs, our lives would become a blessed yearning, an ecstatic striving, and an unwavering moving towards God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Because we desire to worship and glorify God, we would love humility, we would love our neighbor, and we would love our God. In fact, the love of God would become all in all in our lives, beginning with the spark of repentance that we willingly fan until by God’s grace it blazes more brilliantly than the noonday sun in the presence of God’s glory. With such beliefs in place, nothing would be more precious than the opportunity to worship God; nothing could make us more grateful than the fact that we can receive God; and nothing would ever separate us from that love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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