THE LORD’S PRAYER: Glory, by Evelyn Underhill
Meditations Based on the Lord's Prayer
Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory. The prayer in which is contained the whole movement of man’s interior life, the substance of his communion with God, is summed up in this delighted declaration of the independent perfection, the unspeakable transcendence of the Holy. Before that reality, that majesty, that energy, that splendor, his own needs, his own significance, vanish. Abba, Father. It is true that the Infinite God is the Father of my soul, that I have a certain kinship with the Abiding, a privilege of cooperation. Higher than my highest, He is yet nearer than my inmost part. But in the last resort, I stand entranced and abased before the majesty, the otherness of that Infinite God.
“He calleth the stars by their names.” All things, all mysteries, are brought to him as their test and meaning. Thine is the Kingdom, hidden from our sight yet already present in perfection; thy secret rule working from within, thine unseen pattern imposed on our chaos, thy Spirit brooding on the deep, turning all things to thy purpose, and even through conflicts, sin, and anguish conditioning and transforming every aspect of human life. Thine is the Power, the inexhaustible energy streaming forth from thy hidden Being, by which the universe visible and invisible is sustained. Thine is the Glory, the self-reveled splendor of the Eternal Perfect filling and transcending creation; seen in its humblest beauties, yet never fully known. We look beyond the ramparts of the world to that triune Reality, the goal of our faith, hope, and love.
On all this, at the end of its prayer, the eyes of the faithful soul are opened. Here life is lost and found again in God. The whole drive of will and desire is carried out beyond the changing of the Changeless; and summed up in him, our only need. More and more, acts and petitions fall from us. The agony of our supplication is silenced, and one simple and confident movement of surrender to the total purpose takes its place. We end on the acknowledgement that all we can see, love, and delight in, all that crushes and bewilders, shames, or reassures us, is nothing beside that which we do not and cannot comprehend: “the mystery which from all ages hath been hid in God, (Ephesians 3:9).”
Glory, said the Rabbis – that brightness on the face of man, in which the created order gave back a faint reflection of the Eternal Radiance – was the first thing lost by Adam at the Fall. But through the incarnation of the Holy in that created order, it is restored to humanity in Christ. “We beheld his glory, the glory of the Only Begotten full of grace and truth.” He is the “first and only fair,” the sacramental disclosure of the Beauty of God. By one of the strange reversals which are the peculiar secret of love, the supreme manifestation upon Earth of that Absolute Beauty is seen in the sacrifice of the Cross; the Perfect, the Strong, the Radiant, self-offered for the sinful, the murky, the weak, and achieving his victory through suffering, failure, death. On the face of the Crucified “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God is revealed, (2 Corinthians 4:6).” Here then we reach the summit of man’s prayer, in this recognition of the self-existent supernatural Glory, the radiance of Reality lying beyond us, yet already with us and awaiting us. In this we achieve an entire release from the Earth-centered life with its disharmonies and grief, its fears and cravings, and anchor our souls in the Unchanging. “Through faith,” says Saint Paul, “we stand already in grace. But we look towards glory,” (Romans 5:2); and in that contemplation we are already gathered into the liberty of the children of God.
Glory is the final word of religion, as joy is its final state. The sparks and trickles of the Supernatural which come to us, the hints received through beauty and through sacrifice, the mysterious visitations and pressures of grace reaching us through conflicts, rebellions, and torments of the natural world – all these are earnests of a Perfection, a Wholeness yet unseen: as the small range of sound and color revealed by the senses witness to the unseen color and unheard music of a Reality which lies beyond their narrow span. All within the created order points beyond itself, to the uncreated Kingdom, Power, and Glory. No life, no intelligence reaches perfection; yet in each there is a promise of the Perfect. Each comes up to its limit, and in so doing testifies to that which lies beyond it; the unlimited splendor of the Abiding, the Glory of the living God. So, too, the creature’s prayer comes up to its limit, and ends upon a word, a reality, which we can neither define nor apprehend.
All thy works praise thee, O Lord,
And thy saints give thanks unto thee.
They shew the glory of thy kingdom,
And talk of thy power:
That thy power, thy glory, and mightiness of thy kingdom
Might be known to men.
Yet even this Kingdom, Power, and Glory, this threefold manifestation of the character of God, is not ultimate. The appeal of man’s prayer is to a Reality which is beyond manifestation. All these are thine; but we reach out to thee. Beyond the wall of contradiction, beyond the “Light that is not God,” almost imperceptible to the attentive creature and yet the ground of its being and goal of its prayer, is the secret Presence; the thou in whom all things inhere, by whom all live. Behind every closed door which seems to shut experience from us he is standing; and within every experience which reaches us, however disconcerting, his unchanging presence is concealed. Not in the wind which sweeps over the face of existence to change it, not in the earthquake which makes sudden havoc of our ordered life, not in the overwhelming splendor and fury of the elemental fire: in none of these, but in the “voice of gentle stillness,” speaking from within the agony and bewilderment of life, we recognize the presence of the Holy and the completing answer to the soul’s completed prayer. We accept thy Majesty, we rejoice in thy Power and thy Glory; but in thine unchanging quiet is our trust. We looked beyond the spiritual to Spirit, beyond the soul’s country to the personal Origin and Father of its life.
“This is our Lord’s will,” says Julian of Norwich, “that our prayer and our trust be both alike large.” (Revelations of Divine Love) Step by step we have ascended the hill of the Lord; and here at the summit of our beseeching, conscious of our own littleness and surrounding mystery, we reach out in confidence to the All. The last phase of prayer carries the soul forward to an entire self-oblivion, an upward and outward glance of awestruck worship which is yet entinctured with an utter and childlike trust. Abba, Father. Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory. Thou art the Beginning and the End of the soul’s life.
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