Monday, February 2, 2015

Who is This King of Glory? No, Seriously, Who?

The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
 for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.

 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.

 He will receive blessing from the Lord
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

Lift up your heads, O gates!
And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.

 Who is this King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle!

 Lift up your heads, O gates!
And lift them up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.

 Who is this King of glory?
 The Lord of hosts,
he is the King of glory.
Psalm 24

Reflection – Happy feast of the Presentation! We are having a silent day of recollection at MH this year, as we usually do on this day, beginning after Mass later this morning. So no, I’m not breaking silence writing this!

Well, it’s just happenstance, but we couldn’t find a better psalm for this feast, and here it is on the Monday Psalter. The entering of the king of glory into his temple, the gates lifting high their heads to allow his passing, the presence of these good people of pure heart seeking the Lord (Simeon and Anna)—all of this is so very fitting for this feast.

I am always struck, mind you, with the strange unexpectedness of God in all this. All of the language of the Old Testament pertaining to the visitation of God to His people, the definitive coming of the Lord among us, is language of strength, might, power, almost of violence and over-mastery.

And then it happens… and it is a baby. A wee little one, carried in the arms of his mother, his father offering the poor man’s sacrifice of two doves. This is the mighty king of glory, this the hour of the visitation of God to bring his people justice and purify them of their sins. How… unexpected! How… strange. How… uh, are you sure you’re doing this right, God?

God’s ways are not our ways, and God’s wisdom seems like folly to foolish humanity. The baby becomes the itinerant preacher and healer. The preacher becomes the prisoner at the dock, the naked man on the Cross, the dead body in the tomb. He rises, but only a few see Him. He ascends, and the whole thing starts over again, with a tiny little band of not-too-impressive men charged with the mission of converting the world to the baby, the man, the Crucified One.

We wouldn’t have done it that way. And in our own personal lives, we wouldn’t do it ‘that way’ either. So often the action of God’s grace in our lives is like that—small, hidden, mysterious, seemingly ‘all wrong’. We need a mighty warrior, and God gives us a baby. We need to have every problem solved, every sickness healed, every sorrow assuaged, and God instead most of the time enters into our problems, sicknesses, sorrows, and shares them with us, and gives us grace to love and trust in the midst of them. “That’s not what we ordered!”

To know the truth of the second half of Psalm 24, we have to be like Simeon and Anna, who are figured in the first half of the psalm. We have to seek the Lord. We have to desire nothing but to be with Him and know Him and follow Him no matter what. And we have to trust that this baby, this strange hidden God, is the One who fashioned the earth and all that fills it, and who fashions us and fills our life with what is good.

Tough call, especially in tough times. But this feast attracts us to do just that, and to know the peace that comes in seeing the salvation of God working in this most mysterious and unexpected way. Happy feast day, and pray for us in MH as we pray for you today.

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