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Vol. V, Oct. 1999

 

"The Host of Heaven worships Thee" (Neh 9,6)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood,

As we know, the fulfillment of the Angels in heaven is their blissful adoration of the Triune God. This is affirmed in the book of Nehemiah.

1. a) Centuries after King Hezekiah, and after the exile of Israel, we meet Nehemiah, a lay-apostle (to express his mission in modern terminology). Like Hezekiah, he was a man of prayer and righteousness. Nehemiah had asked God's pardon for his sins and the sins of all the sons of Israel, and so with the help of God had received permission from King Artaxerxes to rebuild Jerusalem (cf. Neh 1,4.6 and 2,6). In that undertaking, he worked together with the priest and scribe Ezra (cf. Ezra 7,11). "When the wall had been built, ... the Levites had been appointed" (Neh 7,1), and the people had invited him to celebrate the "Feast of the booths", Ezra started the feast with a prayer in which he referred to the holy Angels simply as worshippers: "Thou art the Lord, Thou alone; Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the sea and all that is in them; and Thou preservest all of them; and the host of heaven worships Thee. Thou are the Lord!" (Neh 9,6).

b) When Israel reestablished the ceremonies in the temple, it recalled the order which God had given to Moses: "You shall make two Cherubim of gold ... on the two ends of the mercy seat" (Ex 25,18). Isaiah too witnessed the Seraphim ... who called to another and saying: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!" (Is 6,2-3); this is their hymn of adoration to the thrice-holy God. St. John the Apostle observed: "All the Angels [who] stood around the throne ... fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God" (Rev 7,11). "And again, when He brings the Firstborn into the world, he says, 'Let all God's Angels worship Him.'" (Heb 1,6 with reference to Dt 32,43). The holy Angels similarly admonish man: "Worship God!" (Rev 19,10; 22,9).

c) It is not merely a question of the word, "adoration"; but the reality and its expression are multiple, even as love expresses itself in a thousand ways. We might think of Jesus' words: "In heaven their Angels always behold the face of My Father" (Mt 18,10). Recall also the praise of the "myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands saying with a loud voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb ...'" (Rev 5,11-12; cf. 4,10-11; 11,16-19), along with the "multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men ...'" (Lk 2,13-14). The Psalmist had sung: "I give Thee thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods (Angels) I sing Thy praise" (Ps 138,1).

2. Notwithstanding, there is a particular meaning of adoration.

a) According to theology and the Church's teaching, adoration means "to acknowledge Him as God, as the Creator and Savior, the Lord and Master of everything that exists, as infinite and merciful Love ...", and to acknowledge "in respect and absolute submission, the 'nothingness of the creature' who would not exist but for God" (CCC 2096-2097).

H. Kühn in his book, Das Reich des lebendigen Lichtes, refers to their purely spiritual nature when he says: "The Angel is by its nature a cultic being. His life is absolutely theocentric, it has — what we must always insist on — no other meaning and no other tasks than the praise of God." The Angel cannot but live in reference to God; that is the reason why those A·ngels who accepted this are eternally happy, and those who rejected it live in eternal opposition to God and in perpetual contradiction to their natural inclination.

b) The holy Angels chose to acknowledge God as their Creator and Savior; they see Him since their salutary choice in the direct vision of His eternal glory. They chose absolute respect and the total submission of their 'nothingness of the creature'. They recognized that they "would not exist" without God and, therefore, wanted not to live "but for God", as the definition has it. Now, they adhere to Him with their rational nature and their free will, with all they have and are, at each and every moment and for ever. From the depths of their being they are one total act of "awe" and loving surrender before his infinite Holiness.

It is in this that their happiness or "heaven" consists: to be for God; to have one interest: God and His most holy Will, to know only one goal in every movement and action: The greater glorification of God! This is the world of the holy Angels: In their own eyes they consider themselves as "nothing"; therefore, they keep silence regarding their own interests. Drawn upwards and all absorbed by the splendor, glory and beauty of God, they cover, as Isaiah saw the Seraphim, both their face as well as their feet, that is, their understanding and free will in the interpretation of St. John of the Cross: They are totally free for God, totally submitted to Him, as is shown by the extended wings of the adoring Seraphim (cf. Is 6,2). Having emptied themselves, they are entirely "light" and resplendent because they are transparent to the uncreated Light; each one is, so to speak, "filled with God", each one is light, joy, beatitude, an offer of love for God, all afire with readiness and enthusiasm. — It is true: In the depth of their being, the holy Angels are adorers of God, because they decided in their trial with the lucidity of their pure spiritual intellect to bow before Him Who created them and to honor Him in all.

3. Consequently, the holy Angels will to lead everyone they contact to that foundation from whence adoration ascends: to the depths of creaturely existence. Through their adoration, they cannot but teach us: We do not exist out of ourselves (which was the big lie of our Century) but someone wanted us to be! Someone called us into existence; we were created by Him, our Lord and God!

a) The holy Angels open up the deepest thirst of all creation and help it realize its original vocation, of which the Psalms never cease to speak, the glorification of the Creator: "Come, let us sing to the Lord, ... Let us bow down and worship, bending the knee before the Lord, our Maker" (Ps 95); "Honor and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are in His sanctuary ... Worship the Lord in holy array; tremble before Him all the earth" (Ps 96). "Bless the Lord, O my soul; ... O you His Angels" (Ps 103; cf. Ps 148; Dan 3 etc.).

b) The holy Angels are especially dedicated to taking us priests, who like them are also messengers of God, into this existential, joyful adoration and glorification of God! They want to teach us with St. Paul that we have nothing except what we have received from Him (cf. 1 Cor 4,7; Mt 10,8). They teach us that in Him we live and move and have our being (cf. Acts 17,28). They lead us through their example and nearness from the superficiality of our busy life to the hidden depth of our heart, from the many secondary affairs to the one essential act of love and surrender, from the unrest among creatures to tranquil peace, to simplicity and silence before Him, my God and Savior. In adoration with the holy Angels, we will come to perceive all the insincere intentions in our hearts, we will learn to detach ourselves from sin and find our way back to our first love! In adoration we will become small and humble, but also free. So near to God, we are at the source of life, truth, love, joy, security, eternity and victory! The clarity in our soul will make us sensitive to the needs of others, it reveals to us anew the meaning of our priestly vocation and the real purpose of the sermons and confessions, the liturgy and daily sacrifices of life; it will help us understand the true goal of our existence: to glorify Our Lord and God and to find in this our happiness!

4. Dear Brothers in the priesthood, does not priestly holiness consist precisely in " familiarity with God" (Pastores dabo vobis, 33), in which, as Ezra said, the holy Angels live through their existential adoration of God, through their total surrender to His most holy Will! We strive for this goal with and through the help of the holy Angels.

Let us ask ourselves: Could they help make me a man of prayer, a better worshipper of God? Do I place praise and surrender before petitions and lamentations?

Am I aware that falling on my knees before the tabernacle and dedicating my time to a Holy Hour is not a free, optional use time for myself, but a duty before God and a priestly mission, vicariously dedicated to so many who still live without faith by lending my voice and love to them and even to all the material creation (cf. Rom 8)?

Am I aware that in these hours Our Lord wants to lead me, inspire my sermons and counsels, and strengthen my faith for the confrontations or sufferings in life?

Am I a messenger of the greatness, the sovereignty and glory of God like the holy Angels? Do I invite the people to adoration? Do I guide them to this depth of prayer? The Congregation of Clergy reminds us: "The Chapel, where our Lord ... is adored, is the heart of our Churches" (The Priests ... of the 3rd Millennium, III,2).

With all the Angels and Saints, particularly with Our Lady and St. Joseph before Jesus, the "God-with-us", and with our holy Guardian Angels let us make our life, already here on earth, a perennial act of adoration of the Triune God and say:

O GOD, I adore You: Wisdom Who designed me; Will, Who willed me; Power, Who created me; Grace, Who elevated me; Voice, Who calls me; Word, Who speaks to me; Kindness, Who enriches me; Providence, Who guides me; Mercy, Who forgives me; Love, Who embraces me; Spirit, Who vivifies me; Calm, Who fills me; Sanctity, Who transforms me, so that I will nevermore rest until I behold You: O God, I adore You. Amen.

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC