"The Doxological Understanding of Life and Mission"

THE DOXOLOGICAL UNDERSTANDING

OF LIFE AND MISSION

 Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania

(1984)

 

—  "The Doxological Understanding of Life and Mission," Epopteia, Dedication to Mt. Athos 96 (1984), pp. 1123-1232. 

—  All the Nations 12 (1986), vol. 17, pp. 20-27, vol. 18, pp. 4-7.

 

            When we use expressions and meanings like the "glory of God," "doxological stance," "unto the glory of God," most people usually think of something being offered to God, a stance of praise, something being done for the glory of God.  The parallel use of the word "glory" for matters pertaining to human life has contributed in altering its original biblical meaning.  Some people even ask what need has the self-sufficient Lord of the universe for His subjects to offer Him glory?  Nevertheless, the meaning, the message and the timeliness of the truths related to the glory of God are far more broad and profound, and have multi-faceted connections with life and mission.

 

A

A Theological and Biblical Review

 

1.  Manifestation of  the glory of God.

The distinction of essence and energies in God

            One of the initial truths of our faith underscores that God is incomprehensible and inaccessible as to His essence.  But the biblical revelation overcomes the impasse of this initial position regarding the incomprehensibility of God by announcing clearly that, while the essence of God remains unknown and incomprehensible, nevertheless His presence becomes perceptible in the world, in the universe, with the manifestation of His glory.  When God is revealed in the various theophanies, it is not His essence, but His glory that becomes known.  For man in his finite nature is in a position to understand and experience only the glory of God.  It is a fervency of divine presence, inconceivable, inaccessible, but directly perceptible.  It is a matter of the dynamic, creative, transfiguring energy of the super-essential Holy Trinity.  The glory of the Triune God embraces the universe, and brings "everything" into the range of His love and the redemptive grace.  And it remains in the boundlessness of eternity, even when time will be abolished.

            This critical point of the incomprehensible God, revealed by His own initiative, is a subject which patristic thought attempted to shed light upon by using the distinction between the essence and the energies of God.  From St.  Basil the Great up to the more systematic development by St. Gregory Palamas, the Eastern Christian thought distinguishes steadfastly between the created universe and the uncreated energies of God.  The "more-than-essence" God is not identified with any created conception or idea, as in the philosophical meaning of essence.  That which man is able to receive, in the final analysis, is the glory of God.  The distance between creature and Creator remains immeasurable.  Any word about God, in the final analysis, can only be a word about the glory of God, which expresses both His inconceivable distance and His nearness

            Whatever we know about the mystery of God, about the evangelical message of the salvation of man, is related basically to the manifestation of the glory of God.  And this is why the most authentic form of expressing this mystery is the one which deals with His glory.  The most suitable reflection about the meaning  and the manner by which this message is transmitted is also  doxological.  It is not so much a matter of method, as it is a way of thinking, of disposition, of life, before the inapproachable mystery of the eternal God.   The proper understanding of the glory of God, its proper experience and transmission, are of central interest in Orthodoxy, and it is of value to approach more analytically its biblical foundations.

 

2.  The glory of God is extended to all the world

            The beginning of Christian experience and the support of optimism and of hope is the reality that the glory of God is extended to all the world.  The more inaccessible and transcendent the essence of God, the more the energies of the divine essence, the glory of God, embrace the universe.  "The heavens are telling the glory of God"(Ps.19,1).  "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory"(Is.6,3).

            The tragedy of the world begins when, with the egotistical use of the freedom of the rational beings – initially an order of the angelic world and later the first human couple – the glory of God was concealed.  For after this explosion of selfishness and egomania, sin was interjected like a polluted mist between the reality of divine glory and the human conscience, the summit of creation.  This disability weighs down the human existence:  "Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"(Rom.3,23).  The people, no longer able to enjoy the presence of God, "did not honor (glorify) him as God or give thanks to him"(Rom.1,21).  Victims of their illusions and their foolishness, the people "exchanged the glory of the immortal God" and replaced it with the various idols of their imagination and their will (Rom.1,21-23).

            A new decisive and definitive manifestation of the glory of God takes place with the revelation in Christ.  "And he Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father"(Jn.1,14).  Knowledge of the Logos, communion with Him, according to the experience of St. John, is "the vision of his glory."  All the stations in the life of Christ, through which the revelation of God and the renewal of the universe is accomplished, are expressions of the glory of God.  His birth means "glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased"(Lk.2,14).  The miracle at Cana, with which the "signs" of His Kingdom began, was an event by which Jesus "manifested his glory"(Jn.2,11).  On the mount of Transfiguration – more directly and in a blinding way – "his glory" is revealed to the three disciples (Lk.9,32), His divine and human nature appearing transfigured by the uncreated light of His divine glory.

            But it was particularly the Passion and the Crucifixion which manifest the glory of God, in its most inconceivable and for the first time manifested dimensions.  Christ Himself, in His final prayer to the Father, refers directly to this truth and connects organically and internally the themes of love, life, glory, which constitute expressions of  the redemptive movement (Jn.17,1-26).  With His Passion, which is followed directly by the Resurrection, Christ enters "into His glory"Lk.24,26).  Destroying decisively the power of death and receiving "every authority in heaven and on earth")Mt.28,18), the resurrected Christ "is ascended in glory" and unites "the things of earth to the things of heaven," raising the human nature to be "at the right hand of the Father of glory," and returning human history to its rightful direction.

            Since then, that which was accomplished ontologically for  human nature in the Person of Christ, the First-born of creation, is now being continued with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  With Pentecost the glory of God is revealed and manifested by another dynamic  manner, that of "the rush of a mighty wind" and "tongues as of fire"(Acts 2,,2-3).  The manifestation of the presence of the Triune God in the universe, in time and eternity is accomplished with the constant energy of the Holy Spirit.

            After Pentecost the apostles of the Church in every period of her history, invited the people "to lead a life worthy of God," who calls all of us "to his own kingdom and glory"(1Thes.2,11-12).  This invitation, this exhortation, this encouragement constitutes the purpose of Orthodox mission.  The core of the apostolic message is the proclamation of "how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:(Col.1,27).  And the purpose of Christian life is determined to be participation in this glory of Christ.

            The entire eschatological vision of the Church reaches the summit where the glory of God will be manifested in all of its brilliance and fullness, when the Son of man comes "in his glory" and "sits upon the throne of his glory" for the definitive judgment and fulfillment of His Kingdom.

            Those who have accepted the light of the glory of God with humility and faith, transforming it in their life into love, see indeed the glory of God as light.  Those who rejected and pushed away the revelation of the glory of God in its humble form, will encounter it eventually as blinding and consuming fire.  The radiation of the glory of God seals the course of history and  extends it into unimaginable dimensions.

            The final pages of the New Testament, illuminating the eschatological vision of the Church, describe the "holy city of Jerusalem," which descends out of heaven from God and is illumined exclusively by "the glory of God"(Rev.21,11.23).  All the powerful of earth "shall bring their glory and honor into it," depositing the glory and the honor of the nations (Rev. 21,24-26).  Every other glory of the world, of the civilizations of the people of the earth are deposited at the feet of God and finds its "end" and fulfillment in its participation in the divine glory.

 

B

Appropriation and Radiation of the Glory of God

 

            In this doxological perspective, mission is not understood as a method for the proselytizing and attracting of new members to a closed community living for itself, but as a polyphonic, multi-dimensional manifestation of the glory of God through the Church that is glorifying God by each God-glorifying believer, whose basic purpose is the mobilization:  a) of the whole of human existence to appropriate and to declare the glory of God, and then b) mobilize all of humanity to a common journey within the space that is illumined by the glory of God and to contribute to the return of all creation to the doxological rhythm.

 

1.  Two continuous movements of the same pulsation

            Appropriating and radiating the glory of God are two continuous movements of basically the same pulsation.  The doxological declaration of the Gospel comes as a response to the revelation of the divine glory in the soul.  And what follows is a new cause for receiving the glory of God.

            Life in Christ does not mean a simple acceptance of some affirmations of faith, principles and rules of behavior.  As often as the emphasis was placed upon these, we ended up with sterile and objectionable external formalities, a legalistic spirit, a dry moralistic mentality.  The purpose of Christian life remains the appropriation of the glory of God in Christ through the Holy Spirit.  This familiarity is revealed as light, love, joy even in this present life.  The rays of the glory of God penetrate into human existence through the grace of the Mysteries.

            The vision of the glory of God follows as a consequence of our living faith.  Not only to Martha but to each and every person the word of Christ is directed:  "If you would believe, you would see the glory of God"(Jn.11,40).

            Christ does not offer to us a legalistic type of deliverance from guilt, a static justification.  "Calling", "justification" are sequential stages.  The end is still the glory, the journey and participation in the glory of God.  "And those whom he justified he also glorified"(Rom.8,30).  Illumination and glory, faith and glory, praise and glory, glory and works advance together side by side.

            All of the energies and activities of the faithful must be referred to the glory of God.  "So glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's"(1Cor.6,20).  All of human existence, the bodily and spiritual functions and possibilities participate in the glory of God.  They receive and the they transmit it.

            Participation in the glory of God, to which the Christians have been called, means a general transformation of existence, a catholic transfiguration within the breath and the fire of the Holy Spirit.  It is a matter of a general admixture of human life, seeking its total renewal, with the energy of the Spirit.  The moment when the believer becomes with the presence of the Holy Spirit a dwelling place of the glory of God, he or she becomes at the same time a transmitting station of the divine glory.

            In the patristic sayings included in the Gerontikon there is recorded an exceptional detail about the life of an anonymous saint:  "Abba John Kolovos said that a spiritual elder became a recluse and became well known in the city and had much glory.  He was once informed: 'One of the saints is dying; go to greet him before he falls asleep.'  And then he thought to himself: 'If I go out in the daytime, people will run after me to honor me and I shall lose my peace.  So I will go at night, in the darkness, and avoid them all.'  So he went out of his cell with the darkness of night, because he did not want anyone to see him.  But behold, from God two Angels are sent down with lamps to lighten his way.  Thus, the whole city ran, seeing his glory.  And the more he thought to avoid any glory, the more he was glorified.  In this event we see an example of what was written: 'He who humbles himself shall be exalted'"1

            Those who become recipients of the divine glory transmit in consequence a transfiguring radiation within the broader social reality of humanity.  Only the glorified by divine grace can essential glorify God, being themselves bearers of His glory.  This is why the Saints remain the most significant "missionaries" of Christendom.

 

2.  It must be spread throughout the earth

            This expression of glory and way of life must not, nor can it, remain a personal instigation or a communal experience of the Church.  It must be spread throughout the earth.  "Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let thy glory be over all the earth!"(Ps.108,5).  This  biblical verse, which is recited at the end of the Divine Liturgy, is in fact a missionary signal for the community of the faithful who will soon be dispersing to their daily responsibilities.  The hymn of doxology must be spread out to all of humanity.  "Declare his glory among the nations"(Ps.96,3).  The experience of the divine light of the glory of the Triune God must not be permitted to remain a privilege of a few communities and peoples.  It must come to pass that "all the peoples behold his glory"(Ps.97,6).  Those who were blessed to receive the glory of God have an obligation to become pockets generating the divine light and, consequently, giving to others "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ"(1Cor.4,6).

            The missionary effort within this perspective is a clear doxological movement.  "For this too is above all praise, this too is above all glory to God – when we seek to have many in the future enjoy His salvation."2

            The missionary interest is extended to the renewal of all historical becoming and every form of cultural expression.  Putting aside whatever platonic or neo-platonic tendencies of dualism, with the certainty that the revelation of the glory of God is not directed exclusively to the mind, to imagination, to a few only of the functions of our immaterial inner self, but to the whole man and to all the aspects of human nature, we are thus called to work for the renewal of all within this universal radiation of the glory of God.

            "All things" participate in the transformative process. The grace is given and transmitted through matter, sanctifying all of creation with bread and the wine, which become the Body and Blood of Christ, "the Lord of glory," through the participation in the Eucharistic doxology, not only of the human spirit, but also of other material elements, such as fire, water, incense, oil.

            The doxology of creation is harmonized with the willed doxology of free beings.  The material universe partakes in the doxology of God.  "The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens!"(Ps.113,4).  With the constant activity of the Holy Spirit, the glory of God will radiate over all the earth.  "May his glory fill the whole earth!"(Ps.72,19).  All those partake in the Church of Christ are called to contribute to this.

            The manifestation of the glory, revealed to rational creation with the presence of Christ, with the proclamation of His authority over "all things", and  then with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit "on all flesh" (Joel 3,1; Acts 2,17), must penetrate into history, into the social structures, into the cultural expressions.  All things are called to be transformed and recapitulated in Christ through  the energy of the Holy Spirit.  All the expressions of human creativity, "all things," are called to participate in this doxological movement.  In the end, even "the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God"(Rom.8,21).

            With the active participation of the faithful, who are living in the realm of the divine glory, the transformative process of the world is being accomplished.  The "logos", the reason and meaning of the world, is summed up in the glory of God.  Mission, in the final analysis, means universal mobilization for a catholic glorification of the universe.

 

C

The Doxological Character of Theological Reflection

and the Life of Worship

 

1.  The portent and prelude of the final hour

                        The doxology of the Church is a portent and a prelude of the final hour, during which the universe will be transformed within the ultimate manifestation of the glory of God.  This perspective of glory and vision of the history of redemption is expressed and preserved by the Church in her dogmatic definitions and expressions of worship, which determine doxologically even the rhythm of Christian life and mission.

            Theological reflection, first of all, is in its more profound and essential expression doxological.  "For even the one who speaks of God in the word of wisdom brings glory to the Lord," Origin has emphasized.3  The particular sensitivity of the Church over doctrinal definitions is not so much a theoretical philosophical preoccupation with the precise and true "opinion", as it is a vigilance for the correct orientation in the journey of man and the world toward becoming familiar with the glory of God.  It is related directly with decisive meaning of a true and  proper doxology of God.

            Every false and erroneous conception and view of the Triune God and of the meaning of human redemption alters, conceals the glory of God,  it clouds the mind and the soul, it leads man astray toward false directions, creating confusion in the way the glory of God is experienced and expressed by the Church.  This is why in Orthodox tradition the anxiety and concern for the correct dogma goes hand in hand and interwoven with the excitement for the proper glory of God.

            Thus theology and every particular expression of it is not limited to being a "science", but, passing through the stages of preparatory scientific knowledge, philosophical or philological, attempts a doxological leap toward approaching and receiving the divine glory in Christ, entering and experiencing the boundless realm of the love and the glory of God.

            Particularly intense is the attempt for theological in-depth penetration through the vision and the experience of the glory of God in the thought and life of the Fathers of the Church.  The doxological stance leads them into the realm of essential religious experiences and gives them "knowledge" which surpasses the boundaries and the nature of empirical, analytical scientific knowledge.  It leads to participation, to "communion", to a divine  and life-giving illumination.

 

2.  Accomplished in the Church

            The journey into the glory of God, to which we are referring, is not a personal matter.  It is accomplished in Christ, in the Church.  For this reason a basic goal of mission is the establishment of a local Church, where with the celebration of the Sacraments and her entire doxological nature, she will proclaim the glory of God and will participate in the praise of the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church."  The journey toward the glory of deification by grace unfolds in the Church and through the Church.  "The Church is the realization of the mystery of the glory of God, where the creation of new life takes place in communion through participation in the glory" (N. Nissiotis).

            The doxological life of the Church is cultivated and culminated in worship.  In the assembly for worship, each believer as a person and all together as the "Body of Christ", we stand existentially before the mystical glory of God, we live the mystery of the Kingdom of god, which has come and is coming, and we proclaim doxologically her eschatological coming.  Especially in the Divine Liturgy, where events of the divine Kenosis of Love, of the sacrifice on the Cross, of the Resurrection, are repeated for the here and now, that we may become partakers of the life and death of the risen and ascended Christ, incorporated in His Body and communicants of divine glory.

            The doxological stance was chosen from the beginning by the Church when the Eucharistic assembly was instituted to proclaim and to celebrate the "Gospel of the glory of God."  The Church chose this stance as the center of life to live and express dynamically the reception and the appropriation of the divine glory, which was manifested in a unique and inconceivable manner in Christ.

            This doxological disposition and stance created a centripetal missionary power of attraction for millions of people, even in the most difficult times of persecutions and martyrdom.  In the assembly for worship the profound change takes place, repentance, the existential vision of humility in glory, and of glory in the humility of Christ, who accepts to have His Body and Blood offered in our humble gifts and in the most humble and unworthy invocations.

            With the doxological vision and anticipation existence is illumed by the mystical radiation of the glory of God, it is filled with incredibly serene energy, which resembles not so much with the mechanical energy of the muscles, as with the nuclear energy.

            This atmosphere of glory fills the Church of the East, which preserves the tradition of the one united Church.  The doxological assemblies present here an exceptional variety of expressions, with the daily rhythm of Matins, Hours, Vespers, Vigils, feast days of Saints, within a succession of seasons in the ecclesiastical year; and all of these assemblies steadily and uninterruptedly gather the faithful to a doxological rhythm which revives them in the certainty of faith.

            Every act and every prayer in Orthodox worship comes to a head and is crowned with an exaltation of glory, with a  recurring announcement and proclamation of the glory of God.  One of the most frequently repeated phrases is the "Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit..."  All of the exclamations in the Divine Liturgy return to and are crowned with the theme of glory.  "For Yours is the dominion, the kingdom, the power and the glory...";  "For You are holy, our God, and to You we give glory..."  (We receive this glory, we accept it and we send it up again to its source).  Here we must not see simply a reference to the divine glory, but a steadfast and ever recurring reorientation toward the reality of the glory of God, which beyond every other conventional "reality" penetrates the whole of life, the entire history of the world, and eternity itself.

            At the center of the Divine Liturgy the hymn "Holy, holy, holy, Lord Sabaoth, heaven and earth are filled with Your glory..."  This way a joyful proclamation is made of the cosmological principle, the glory of God fills the universe, that is, space and time.  It is a faith that fills the faithful with optimism and joy, granting them that certainty from which they also draw life and courage.  The hymnological tradition and life of the Church, uniting the faithful in a doxological body of praise, offers them  new power to transfer the eternal life and the hope in Christ into daily life.

            Particularly the monasteries, as organized doxological centers of a continuous and intense life of worship, have preserved and continue to preserve within the most varied historical conditions a steady missionary radiation.  In the West and in the East, in the cities and in the deserts, in developed and in primitive civilizations, their contribution in spreading and establishing the Christian faith, but also in demonstrating its spirit of resistance and endurance remains indisputable.  In remind us, in particular, the role of the monasteries in spreading Christianity to the regions of Northern Europe, to the vast lands of Northern Asia, and later in resisting the pressure of Islam in Asia Minor, in Egypt and the Balkans.

            Influenced by the social categories and tendencies of our time, many limit themselves to seeing the missionary contribution of  the monasteries in their social and educational work only.  But all of that work comes as a consequence, as a breath of life.  The initial work, that which makes the monasteries to be dynamic centers of evangelization and mission, is the fact that they were and are steadfast communities of doxological worship, living the mystery of the Kingdom and reflecting the illumination of its presence and its eschatological coming.

            Corroded by the usual mentality of effectiveness, we do not always have the sensitivity to evaluate the true holiness, which radiates the glory and transfigures only because it exists.  Nevertheless, in every age there is a perceptibly profound influence upon society by the Saints, who are the signs of the signs of the mystical presence of the glory of God.

            But even those of us who are active in the area of many ecclesiastical activities and missionary efforts, know from personal experience how we dangerously empty ourselves, distracted "about many things", and how renewed and refreshed we become by returning to the doxological atmosphere of worship.  This doxology offers inner spiritual strength, vision and ascetic vigilance with direct and constant references to the catharsis and  inspiration of daily service.  For the doxological stance of which we are speaking is not a static and passive.  It is connected organically with the familiarity, the appropriation and the radiation of the divine glory.

            Very often, in the classic expression "to the glory of God", the center of gravity falls on the fact that we do something which in turn we offer for the glory of God, while the real meaning of the phrase places the emphasis on the fact that all of life is found in this  journey and process "of being glorified with", of being transfigured, of being conformed to the one "calling us to his kingdom and glory."  Every creative attempt and participation in this on-going transfiguration of the universe, which is being accomplished by the glorified Lord, whatever service is rendered within the Church, whatever expression of love – these all are an illumination, a ray of this radiation of the glory of the loving God.

            Prayer and love are the only things that will not come to an end in eternity;  they are the language of the future age.  When someone is planning to travel to a country and to live there, he must learn its language properly and have at his disposal the currency that is legal there.  The same applies to the prayer of doxology, the language of the future ages, and to love, which is the only currency in the "Kingdom of heaven."

 

D

Living in Humility the Crucified Love

from Glory to Glory

 

            The doxological stance, to which we have been referring, does not displace the other dimensions of Christian experience and life.  It does not exclude them; on the contrary it includes them.

 

1.  In Christ through the Holy Spirit

            The doxology of God is not something which just happens, flowing out of the human brain and the human will autonomously.  It is accomplished in Christ, with the power and the breath of  the Holy Spirit, in the  Church.  Jesus was the only one of the human race who truly glorified the Father with His work and life.

            The manifestation of the glory of God in Christ is accomplished primarily in the self-emptying love of the Crucifixion.  This abides permanently as the revolutionary characteristic of divine love, which causes it to differ definitively and decisively from the usual expressions of human glory.

            With our thought polluted with the conventionalities of the world, we have a hard time compromising humility with glory.  Alienated by the thirst for publicity, self-aggrandizement and promotion, we forget that the authentic in the expression of the glory of God is the humble.    To reveal the glory of God, Jesus Christ "emptied himself"(Phil.2,7).  Whoever wishes to live in Him, is obligated to partake without interruption in the humility of Christ.  This is why in the East emphasis is given to the Prayer of Jesus (to help keep His name and presence in the heart) and to the  constant request for divine mercy, to the sense of our unworthiness and sinfulness.  Only when we are inwardly emptied, does it become existentially possible to become vessels of the grace of God.

            All of the other attempts to express the glory of God, the magnificent external systems, the pompous impressive creations of wealth and worldly powers, which imitate the human measures of glory, have been proven to be caricatures, weak and even dangerous for the proclamation of "the Gospel of the glory of God."

            The love for the glory of men stands in opposition to the love for the glory of God (Jn.12,43).  Whoever desires the human glory cannot work authentically in missions to manifest the glory of God.  The more one becomes familiar and accepts the light of divine glory, the more he or she is liberated from the excitement of worldly recognition, money, fame, power, authority.  Making this point  is a story we read in the Gerontikon:  "There was an Abba by the name of Pamvo who people say that for three years he beseeched God, saying the following prayer: "Lord, do not give me any glory here on earth.'  But God so glorified him that others could not gaze upon his face because of the glorious radiance that shone from his appearance."4

            The temptation to alter the meaning of divine glory with external appearances of grandeur, spectacular demonstrations and bold declarations have repeatedly wounded the Church and the missionary effort in its various forms.  It has harmed Christianity in many regions of the earth by identifying it with the thought of people with various self-interests and authorities of this world, and thus giving the anti-Christian propaganda a handle for exploitation.

            The hour par excellence for the glory of God is the hour of the free acceptance of the Passion.  There is persistence in the use of words by the Lord during the Mystical Supper, as a festive  prelude and summary of what he would reveal about the love, the way to the Father, the coming of the Spirit, the meaning of His martyrdom:  "Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified; if God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once"(Jn.13,31-32).

            The glory of God can be lived and revealed in no other framework except in the framework of the crucified love.  This is the profound conviction of the Saints.  Here  is how St. Symeon the New Theologian has expressed it:  "We too must with diligence do these same things, so that through them we may glorify our heavenly Father who condescended to call us there and be glorified by him with the glory of Jesus, which he had with the Father before the world was created.  These things are the cross, that is, the death of everything worldly, sorrows, temptations, and whatever other sufferings of Christ; by enduring these with much patience, we imitate the sufferings of Christ and glorify through them our Father and God as his sons by grace and co-inheritors with Christ."5  The free and willing acceptance of suffering in the name of love and righteousness is not opposed to the life of doxology.  On the contrary it supports it by offering to it the true eschatological dimension (2Cor.4,17).

            Blessed are those who can see the glow of the glory of God in the patient, willing participation in the sufferings of humanity; in the poverty of the poor of this world, in the weakness of the weak, in the thirst for justice and righteousness; in partaking freely of the pain and the sufferings of others with genuine selfless love.  The decisively new in the love which Christ revealed is not the part to "love one another", but primarily what follows:  "as I have loved you", that is, with selflessness, with fullness, with respect for human freedom, and with all the consequential dimensions for suffering.  "The Gospel of the glory of Christ"(2Cor.4,4) will constantly call us back on line, placing us before the harsh and demanding form of glory of the Cross.

            Thus the doxological stance and life does not mean a hymnological escape into some closed idyllic environment, but a universal opening, participation in the problems of all of humanity, particularly those of the humble and the wronged.  Moreover, it means to stand by in defense and support for all; it is an uninterrupted breath and inspiration of the fire of the Holy Spirit.  Directly connected with the meanings of "light" and of "power", the "glory of God" expresses something particularly dynamic.  The  surprising and brilliantly shining life of the Saints reflects such a doxological experience of the humility and the love of Christ, preserving a missionary conviction that is timely for every person, every period, every society.

 

2.  In uninterrupted dynamic development

            The doxological movement of the believer and of the Church is in an uninterrupted dynamic development.  It is continuous process from one degree of glory to another.  "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit"(2Cor.3,18).

            Therefore, as St. Gregory of Nyssa writes, "let the believer be changed certainly for the better by being transfigured from glory to glory, with daily improvements becoming always better and always advancing toward perfection without ever reaching the end of perfection.  For true perfection is to never cease striving for perfection and to never set a limit of perfection at some point."6

            In the final analysis it is a matter of constant extension, strengthening of the human capabilities and achievements, which leads to deification by grace.  Christian life is continuous movement from one purification to another, from one repentance to another, from one virtue to another, from one knowledge to another; it is indeed a dynamic movement of constant renewal in the Spirit.

            The boundary will remain steadfastly at the divine essence.  This man will never reach.  Man does not partake of the essence of God, but is exalted and deified with the illumination of the glory of God, the divine energies.  What we call deification is participation in the energy, the glory, not the essence of God.  At this point the human mind becomes aware of standing at a boundary, which cannot be surpassed.  Consequently it gives up on any attempt to describe it and abandons itself ecstatically, lovingly, with gladness to the vision of the glory of God, which recreates, transfigures and makes the mind all light.

            Every day in the life of the believer must be a journey toward the goal of being "glorified with" Christ.  Living the mystery of inner transfiguration with prayer, with asceticism, with an intense vision of the beloved Person and the mystery of humility and co-crucifixion, we come to the gateway of communion with the glorified Lord; living the attempt for expanding the glory of God into the hearts of other people, out of the silence of humility and their acceptance in love, and out of the mystery of the Logos, we discover the meaning and the infinite nature of our calling.  Moreover, we are called to participate in the transfiguration and renewal of creation, of the world, and to do this with a positive, serene, creative attempt within the sector to which each one of us is entrusted, regardless if the sector is scientific, or practical, or administrative, or whatever other social service it may be.

 

***

 

            Let us sum up:  The doxological understanding of life and of mission and the clearest expression of the doxological disposition in our missionary reflections, studies and activities does not mean expressive crowns unto the glory of God, nor limitation of our activities to assemblies for worship and hymns of praise.  It does not mean the devaluation of other aspects of the spiritual life, but rather their embrace and inclusion for articulation and synthesis.  The glory of God has already been revealed in Christ, and we Christians are called to a continuous, energetic experience and manifestation of this glory, which is identified in   biblical terminology with the "Kingdom of God."

            The theological thought, the life of worship, the daily movement and activity pass through this doxological vision, warmth and hope, into another level that far above the abstract analyses, the sentimental excitements and the willful expressions of duty.  They become a pulsation for life in Christ, an outpouring of light from the Holy Spirit, and a hymn of glorious joy.

 



1 Abba John Kolovos,  The Elder Said...  The Gerontikon in Modern Greek, Astir, A. & E. Papademetriou, Athens 1974, no. 28, p. 114.

2 St. John Chrysostom, Interpretation on Psalm 145, 1, PG 55,473.

3 Origin, On the Psalms,  Psalm 28, PG 12, 1289, 33-34.

4 On Abba Pamvo, in The Elder Said... op. cit. 1, p. 224.

 

5 Symeon the New Theologian,  Theological and Practical Chapters, Philokalia of the Neptic and Ascetic Fathers, Greek Fathers of the Church, vol. 19A Thessaloniki 1983, pp. 524, 526.

6 St. Gregory of Nyssa, To Olympios on Perfection, 8,1, Greek Fathers of the Church, vol. 8, Thessaloniki 1980, p. 422.