Day 15: Monday

Monday: Read the Scripture Passage of the Gloria (Luke 2:9-14) again slowly. Relish the words. Let them resound in your heart. Let an attitude of quiet receptiveness permeate your prayer time. Be attentive to what speaks to your heart.

 

  • What Phrase or Word stands to you?
  • Augustine argued that the Lukan canticles (and Scripture in general) themselves are good examples of faith, hope, and charity at work in human beings: they aim to teach the reader how to behold the incarnation which requires faith, how to respond to it, which requires love, and how to hope based on the knowledge that the promises of Christ’s first coming have already been fulfilled. If we approach the Gloria in the way that Augustine suggests Scripture to be read, and in the way that Luke intended for them to be read by his own admission (indeed even in the way, it may be argued, that the cantors themselves intended) – namely as texts through which the charity, faith, and hope of the reader may be strengthened: then, looking through the window of love, faith and hope as you read, how does the angel’s song require love, faith and hope of you as you behold the incarnation? Think about how you see/behold (faith), how you respond (love) and how you hope (in promises fulfilled): how is God suggesting each may be strengthened? Note this in your journal.
  • Consider this together with the word or phrase that stood out to you. What does this suggest for what God might be saying to you in this passage?

 

Ghirlandaio-dettaglio-1024x578
Detail of the Angels with a scroll that reads ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo’ in D. Ghirlandaio, Adoration of the Shepherds, 1488, tempera on wood, Spedale degli Innocenti, Florence (Italy)

Today, we will explore the first theme in the Gloria, which is Glory. Luke features this theme more than do the other synoptic writers: while Matthew mentions it seven times and Mark a mere three, the word Glory appears thirteen times in Luke’s Gospel and four times in Acts. How can we think about God’s glory? As Darrel L. Bock, in his commentary on Luke observes, the word Glory may be used in two different ways: “it may refer to an attribute of God, describing his majesty, or it may be used to ascribe praise to God.”

 

Although Bock believes that the second use of the word is most likely the meaning of Glory in the angels’ hymn, it is also probable that both meanings are being invoked at once. The angels both say that glory belongs to God as one of his attributes, and they give glory to him in their praise.

 

It may be helpful to consider how Luke develops the theme of Glory throughout his work. Twice, he stresses that glory belongs to God alone. The very next instance of the word Glory after the angelic hymn comes in a completely different context. In Luke 4:6, the devil tempts Jesus, saying, “All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.” Jesus’ answer is a stern rebuke, “Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” Again in Acts 12:23, King Herod was killed by the angel of the Lord, “because he gave not God the glory.” These examples develop the angels’ initial statement at Jesus’ birth, “Glory to God in the highest.”

 

Luke does not leave this theme at that but continues to develop it in several narratives where the glory of God was (or would be) beheld. The Transfiguration of Luke 9:28-32 is an example of this: “And it came to pass about eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up to the mountain to pray. And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistening. And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease, which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him.”

 

Jesus prophesies the glory that men will behold when He comes again in Luke 21:27: “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” Finally, in Acts 7:55, Stephen sees the glory of God directly before he dies a martyr’s death: “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.” These narratives reveal that the beholding of God’s Glory is a rare experience, one that will only become common among men at the return of Jesus. Jesus, then, is the harbinger of God’s glory, both at his first coming (as the angels proclaim) and in his second.

 

  • Consider the ability to see God’s Glory, of which the angels sing and Jesus speaks. How does this change your reading of today’s Scripture passage? How can you practice beholding God’s Glory as a discipline that helps you to see the world in a different light?
  • Consider again the phrase or word which you noted in the passage. As you consider the theme of Glory, and Jesus as its harbinger, does this shed any light or offer any context for how you see or behold that phrase and what God might be suggesting to you?
  • What does the story of Peter and John suggest about ‘being awake’ and seeing his glory? Are you asleep to the workings of God’s Glory in your life? Do you give God the Glory for his patient work in transforming your heart?

 

Prayer:

Pray the Gloria slowly, as your own hymn of praise to God. Ask God for the grace of beholding his glory as a window on your life and its purpose.