I learned fairly quickly that this was his way of claiming and proclaiming God's presence among us, or the movement of the Spirit. If it was also a bit of grandstanding, fine. The proclamation was sincere.
What do we see when we see the glory of God. On the one hand, nothing, of course. God is not literally "seen." In fact, God is very protective of his mystery (and I have long thought that we need to be a bit more protective of it as well). In the sacramental tradition, we see God at work only mediated through the things of this world, including our fellow human beings. The Sacraments are the "sure and certain" ways we see God's mercy, grace, and love at work. Remember the Prayer Book Catechism definition of the sacraments, that they are "outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace." People tend to remember only the first part of the definition, which is unfortunate.
The Sacraments were never intended to be a means to their own end. For one, they are meant to teach us to see God at work in the world, to discern the presence of Jesus among us, or to recognize the movement of the Holy Spirit. For two, they are a kind of rehearsal for participating in the work of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit. To borrow language from our current Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, God is always a movement. Learning to see is essential, but boldly participating with God, moving with God, is just as important.
Sacraments are about seeing grace. To use the Catechism's definition of grace (which immediately follows its definition of the Sacraments), grace is
- God's favor toward us, unearned and undeserved.
- God's forgiveness of sins.
- God's enlightenment of our minds.
- God's stirring of our hearts.
- God's strengthening of our will.
I would reduce these to five words: love, mercy, wisdom, passion, and courage.
When we see those things, we see God's glory. When we participate in those things we participate in God's glory. When we consciously see or participate, we might just have a "glory attack," and that is good, unless we make it unclear that the glory comes from God. It is not our own glory that we serve (although we are nothing if not human beings who often get this all confused).
All of this reminds me of a popular quote from St. Irenaeus of Lyon from the 2nd century, a quote about which there is some debate as to its precise meaning, but seems clear enough to me, given the above.
The glory of God is the living human being, and the life of a human being is the vision of God.
We'll start there next time.