During a spiritual conversation with another Carmelite nun one day, St. Elizabeth was struck by a scripture of St. Paul which the older nun shared with her: “praise of glory.” The phrase occurs three times in succession in Ephesians 1:
Verse 5-6: “In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the Beloved.”
Ephesians 11-12 : “In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory….”
Ephesians 3:13-14 – “In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.”
Elizabeth was enthralled to discover her purpose, her vocation, her very name: “Laudem Gloriae,” Praise of Glory. Years ago, as a young novice in my 20’s, I was equally enthralled. But what is this glory? I exist to praise His Glory, so what is the glory of God?
This, Father M. M. Philipon, O. P. explains in his book: THE SPIRITUAL DOCTRINE OF SISTER ELIZABETH OF THE TRINITY. [He wrote the book long before her canonization.] This excerpt from his book is so beautiful I will quote it in its entirety [bold emphases are mine]:
1. What is the glory of God? The radiant manifestation of what He is, the revelation of His infinite perfections.
2. There are two kinds of glory in God: His personal glory within Himself, and His external glory in the universe He has created. There is no question here of His essential glory, that glory which God finds in Himself, in His Word, in the unique eternal Thought which adequately expresses all that He is in the indivisible Unity of His Essence and the Trinity of the Persons. The Word expresses everything: the inexhaustible fecundity of the bosom of the Father, the beauty of the son, the Love that perfects Them in Unity, the universe which has come into being by their creative might and which remains in the hands of God like a plaything. Thus the Father manifests His own glory to the Son. The Father shines out in the Word, the image and splendor of His glory; the Word manifests to the Father all that He is in Himself. In Him, the Father and the Son know the Eternal Love that unites them. Such is the essential glory of God, that personal intra-Trinitarian glory which is the Word.
3. The universe adds nothing to this infinite glory, and before the Holy Trinity even the very soul of Christ must acknowledge its nothingness. In the three-fold society of the divine Persons and the indivisible unity of their Essence, God is sufficient to Himself. All that can come to Him from without, even from Christ, is only accidental. And yet, notwithstanding, God claims it absolutely, because the hierarchy of values and the order of creation so requires. To the Creator belong honor, wisdom, power, and glory.
4. …[Elizabeth] understood perfectly that she was bound to become a saint in the first place for God; and to become as great a saint as possible because His glory was closely linked with her sanctity….She understood that the higher a soul is raised on the summits of transforming union, the better it will fulfill its office of ‘Praise of Glory.’ God is glorified in the measure in which ‘the beauty’ of His perfections is reflected in souls…
5. The glorified souls, those who contemplate God in the simplicity of His Essence, have attained to this supreme transformation. ‘Then I shall know even as I am known,’ says St. Paul, meaning by intuitive vision….That is why…they are ‘transformed into the same image from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord.’ Then they are a ceaseless praise of glory to the divine Being Who contemplates his own splendor in them… ‘God created man to His own image.’
6. Such was the plan of the Creator, that He might view Himself in His creature, and might see His own perfections and beauty reflected through him as through a pure and flawless crystal. Is that not a kind of extension of His own glory?
7. The soul…that allows the Divinity to reflect Himself in it…such a soul is truly the ‘Praise of Glory’ of all His gifts. Whatever happens, and during the most commonplace employments, it sings the canticum magnum [great canticle], the canticum novum [new canticle], and this canticle thrills God to His very depths.’ [pp. 90-91]
No false humility in St. Elizabeth. She determined to be a saint, and a great one, because nothing else would suffice to praise the essential glory of God.
Several years ago I wrote another reflection, “A Plan to Praise His Glory.” In an emotional, ecstatic hour of Adoration, three years before I even read Fr. Philipon’s book, God gave me the grace to glimpse briefly what Fr. Philipon explains as the essential glory of God:
“We tend to see the Glory of God as a static thing, brilliant Light, radiance, etc. such as Peter, James, and John saw to envelop Christ during the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor. Yet we should realize that His Glory is intensely alive with Divine Energy, ecstatic and personal, throbbing with incomprehensible Love, deeply shared, pouring out from Divine Person to Divine Person eternally. His Glory is Delight, enthralling, enrapturing.”
Rather than using Fr. Philipon’s words, “essential,” and “accidental”, I explained then that “Glory is not extrinsic to God, but intrinsic—essentially His from all eternity. We cannot give Glory to God; He IS Glory. When we say, “Glorify God” or “Give glory to God” we are talking about the praise of His Glory, giving Him what is extrinsic to Him, incidental, nonessential. If we are pure and acceptable to Him in Christ, it is as though we are holding up a spotless mirror to reflect His Glory–we don’t increase it, but merely reflect it.”
An old hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” has always given me great joy, expressing so well the image of the eternal adoration by the angels and saints of the Trinity:
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!
Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.
The line that always moved me was that of the saints casting down their gold crowns around the glassy sea. Then the cherubim and seraphim falling down before Him—all in an ecstasy of adoration, in an extremity of prostration. The “glassy sea” seemed a perfect mirror to reflect His unspeakable light. This kind of adoration was what I saw last Sunday morning. An African woman, an immigrant from Sierra Leone, entered our church, went to the foot of the sanctuary, and in full view of the entire congregation, prostrated herself before Him, recognizing Him, laying her turbaned head on the lowest step, remaining for a long moment of singular adoration of the Blessed Trinity.
I wrote a post some time ago, “We are Underwhelmed by God.” We are numb to Him. We do not see. We do not even genuflect well. We flick our hands in trivial signs of the Cross. God forgive us.
Yet in paragraph 7 of Fr. Philipon’s excerpt, we read: The soul…that allows the Divinity to reflect Himself in it…such a soul is truly the ‘Praise of Glory’ of all His gifts. Whatever happens, and during the most commonplace employments, it sings the canticum magnum [great canticle], the canticum novum [new canticle], and this canticle thrills God to His very depths.’
If we can be just a bit more mindful, if we take time for adoration on a regular basis, if we will prostrate ourselves in spirit, “whatever happens, and during the most commonplace employments,” our soul will sing the Canticum magnum, the Canticum novum—the new song of the Holy Spirit Who floods our entire being, “thrilling God to His very depths.” This is the song of the saints casting down their golden crowns in an ecstasy of adoration, the song of the cherubim and seraphim. Even in the commonplace, the most ordinary and tedious moments of our lives, we will live adoring the intrinsic Glory of God, praising His Glory.