11 times in the Morning Prayers; 12 in the Evening Prayers. 5 times in the Trisagion alone.
We throw the word ‘glory’–and it’s kin, glorious and glorified and glorify–around a lot in the Church. That’s not bad–but all too often, we become desensitized to it. I mean, think about how many times during one church service you say, “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.” It’s a big number, folks.
But what does it mean to give glory? So often we see it paired with worship, like in the Evening Prayers: “O Christ our God, who at all times and in every hour, in heaven and on earth, art worship and glorified…” We see it so often at the conclusion of prayers: “…for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…”
I think this leads us too easily to lumping ‘glory’ into that with which it’s paired. Worship is a more concrete concept than glory–I know what it looks like to worship something, I can picture it my head, so glorifying something probably looks just like that. God has the kingdom–yep, with God is the kingdom, is Heaven–He has the power–yup, God’s powerful–and He has the glory–well, that’s probably just another big impressive thing that God has.
But glory has more layers than that. I mean, if someone were to ask you “What’s glory? I don’t know this word,” you wouldn’t be able to respond with “Well, it’s a big impressive thing that’s kinda like power and being worshiped.” Not unlike beauty or love, glory tends to be one of those aspects of God that is best understood when you see it, experience it. When you try to define it, you find that you actually know it intrinsically. Glory is essentially “Um, that.” points at glorious thing
Then how can we pray these words, at the beginning of the Trisagion: “Glory to thee, our God, glory to thee?” How can we answer the call of OCF this year, and glorify God in all things (#glorytogod), if we cannot easily construct for ourselves an image of glory, of glorifying?
We must recognize, I think, that our closest attempt to glorifying God is often our helpless outpouring of thanks to Him. The Akathist of Thanksgiving service, rife with glories, typifies this effort for us. Each Ikos has within it a serious of petitions meant to glorify God. From the first Ikos:
Glory to You, Who called me to life,
Glory to You, Who have shown me the beauty of the universe,
Glory to You, Who have opened before me the sky and the earth as an eternal book of wisdom,
Glory to the eternity of You, in the midst of the world of time,
Glory to You, for Your hidden and evident goodness,
Glory to You, for every sigh of my sadness,
Glory to You, for every step of my life, for every moment of joy,
Glory to You, O God, unto ages of ages.
It is a thanking of God, but a transcendent thanking; the capstone of all thanks that can be given. Consider the things for which God is glorified: giving the speaker life itself, moments of joy, sighs of sadness, the beauty of the universe, all goodness. Can proper thanks be given for these things? Likely not. So, glory is given.
God is glorious, magnificent, beautiful–there’s nothing in that realm of glory that we can give Him. We give God glory because we need to thank Him, to honor Him, as the pinnacle of deference and gratitude. And again, God doesn’t need that from us–He doesn’t need anything from us. It is for our sakes that we give glory to God.
If we did not, there would be no purpose to our lives, no meaning to our breaths. Our world, a product of happenstance and coincidence and cosmic mush, would act upon us, and through our misguided and feeble human attempts to interpret it, we would fall into damnation and hopelessness.
Glory to God, for communion with Him is the purpose of our very existence. Glory to God.