What Is Glory?
Like so many other words, we use the word ‘glory’ in many different ways. Sometimes we use words too facilely and they tend to lose their richest meaning. The following passage from Sacred Scripture gives us some things to think about in reference to this word, ‘glory.’
“But now it has been manifested to his holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.” (Colossians 1:24-27) Paul is reflecting on what it is that is being passed on to the Gentiles at Colossae by the preaching of the Good News of Jesus Christ by him and by the presbyters of the Church. What is being passed on is the glorious mystery of God’s love and the salvation it brings about. This is the mystery of God’s glory, which is seen in Jesus Christ, and is generously passed on to each one who comes to believe in him. Christ is God’s glory among us and in us now. And it is our hope to one day stand in his glorious presence and see him face to face.
Glory. How can we deepen our understanding of that word. We can, of course, go to the dictionary, which is always a good place to start. A dictionary will give us the denotative, that is, the explicit or direct meaning of a word. The Random House College Dictionary defines ‘glory’ this way: ʺVery great praise, honor, or distinction bestowed by common consent; renown.ʺ Another meaning included in the definition is: ʺresplendent beauty or magnificence.ʺ And yet another: ʺthe splendor and bliss of heaven; heaven.ʺ Here are some other synonyms for the word glory as well: ʺbrilliance, shining light, luminosity, radiance, beauty.ʺ All of these denotative definitions and synonyms give us a hint of the meaning of the word glory that Paul implies here. But he is also using the word in its connotative sense, that is, its associated or secondary meaning. Indeed, Paul is expressing a theologically poetic meaning as well.
When we give glory to God we are recognizing the very great praise that he is due. We are expressing our wonder in him, we are honoring him with our intellects, our hearts and our souls, for we are in awe of him, knowing that we are nothing in comparison to his glory. We see in him a beauty that is beyond description, that is magnificent in its radiance. We know that his beauty is so brilliant, so luminous, that we will not be able to look at it directly until we are in heaven.
But here is the real mystery of Paul’s words: ʺGod chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles (that is, us). He is telling us that this glory that came to us in the form of a man, Christ Jesus, is in the Church, the Body of Christ, and this is the very reason why we can hope to one day share in that glory in heaven. The Glory of God has been made manifest to us in Jesus. And that glory is the destiny of all who come to believe in Christ and endeavor to do his will in the world. Jesus brought that glory into our midst. And that glory now dwells within us through the Holy Spirit. It is the radiant beauty of God that enters us at our baptism, that remains in us to guide our feet into the way of peace, inwardly and outwardly throughout our lives. And our God-created souls are made in and for this beauty, now and forever.
Help us, Lord. Help us to see, to praise, and to honor your radiant beauty in all things every day. Help us to see it also in all whom we meet, even when those we meet make it difficult, indeed, almost impossible to see it in them. Help us to bring them to see your glory in themselves through our love, our understanding, our compassion, and our forgiveness. Help us, too, to see your radiant beauty in our own souls and to let that light shine in all that we do and say. Lord, fulfill our hope that, when death comes for us, we will finally be able to look directly into your radiant face and understand perfectly the infinite, unconditional love that you have had for us from the moment of our conception. We pray all of this in Jesus’ name. Amen.