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Vol. X, June 2004

 

“His Glory [is] Above the Heavens!” (Ps 113:4)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

Psalm 113 is rarely listed among the Biblical references on the angels. Yet, there are two texts which inspire us about our life in communion with the angels. First, the Psalmist addresses the “servants of the Lord.” Secondly, the Lord is described with “His glory above the heavens,” looking “far down upon the heavens and the earth”. Just as “earth” stands for mankind, so too do the “heavens” stand for the angels.

1. “Blessed be the name of the Lord, now and for ever!”

This Psalm gains a special importance through the Church. With its words she introduces the blessings: “O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord! Blessed be the name of the Lord both now and for evermore!” (Ps 113:1-3).

a) The Servants of the Lord

Who are these “servants” to whom the Psalmist refers? Is it man who asks the angels to praise the Lord, because he does not know how to pray as he ought (cf. Rom 8:26)? Or is it the angel who calls man to join him in his praise (cf. last Circular and the strong exhortation of St. Raphael, Circ. VI,12; VII,1,2)? The angels were divided forever over the question of doing or not doing the will of God (cf. Ps 102:20). I will serve; “I will not serve” (Jer 2:20). Man still has to learn to become a servant of God. He struggles with the submission of his will to the holy will of God. Those who are willing call for help and try to follow the example of the “servant of the Lord”, the Virgin Mary. She had learned and knew what the ultimate meaning of life and mission was and is. It is the praise and adoration of God, His glorification. Jesus expressed it at the end of His life on earth in these words: “Father, I glorified Thee on earth, having accomplished the work which

Thou gavest Me to do; and now, Father, glorify Thou Me in Thy own presence with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was made” (Jn 17:4).

The Praise of the Lord has to be universal in time and space: “Blessed be the name of the Lord both now and for evermore (time)! From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised (space)!” The overwhelming wave of praise should also come from everyone, because: “The Lord is high above all nations, and His glory above the heavens!… He…looks far down upon the heavens and the earth” (vv.4,6).

b) “Who is like the Lord our God?”

There is nothing comparable to Him: “Who is like the Lord our God, Who is seated on high” (v.5). Almost as a metaphysician, the Psalmist considers the “ontological steps” upwards to God. He starts with the lowest creature, material creation, the sun and all it shines upon. Then he refers to “all nations”, that means to all mankind. Man constitutes a special step among the degrees of creatures. He unites substantially in himself the elements of the material and spiritual world. He forms a substantial union of matter and spirit through his body and soul. Finally, mentioning “the heavens”, he refers to the world of the angels (cf. CCC 326), the purely spiritual or highest degree of creatures. It is, as St. Thomas shows, a harmonious ladder of beings. “High above all” these is GOD, the Lord of all, the Creator and Owner (cf. Summa Contra Gentiles, IV,11). The awareness and contemplation of this harmonious structure in creation brings order and peace into man’s interior life. It leads man to proclaim in wonder the praise of GOD. Indeed, my God, “Who is like the Lord our God, Who is seated on high?”!

Immediately thereafter is added the moral side of reality and truth: God is Life, a living Being. He “looks far down upon the heavens and the earth” (vv.5-6), upon the angels, men, and all creation. It is not the scrutinising glare of a judge, but the provident vision of God, Creator and Father. For, “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children” (vv.7-9). He sees His creatures and cares for them. By His justice He is above all, and by His love He bows down to the lowly. That is the conclusive reason in the Psalm, motivating the Psalmist to sing, “Praise the Lord!”

2. The Right View of God

We need to let the Psalm guide us into the right view of God. As we do not yet see God as He is, we depend on His manifestations. The first and fundamental one is creation. For “ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature, namely, His eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Rom 1:20). Going further, we come to see the Creator through His creatures.

a) Not Just: “The Carpenter’s Son”

Some object that this lofty vision of God is an antiquated perspective, which passed away with the coming of Christ. God, they argue, does not wish to be seen any more as someone “high up” who “looks down” on creatures. He became man so that the apostles could see and touch Him, and listen to Him (cf. 1 Jn 1:1-3). Indeed, they continue, He was know by the people as the “the carpenter’s son” (Mt 13:55). It is true, that the Lord came nearest to us, that He entered the line of sinners before John the Baptist. But even in the New Testament and till the end of time, God remains the author of all creation. Even after having become man, Jesus never ceases to be the uncreated Son of the Eternal Father! Thomas, who touched Jesus after the Resurrection, recognised not only Christ’s humanity, but also His divinity: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28). He wanted to verify that Jesus is the same: the One who died on the Cross in His humanity is the One Who is now risen and alive and standing before him. This was for Thomas a proof of Christ’s divinity. The same is true of Jesus today when He is among us so silently and patiently present in the Holy Eucharist. He never ceases to be the Eternal Son of God. All of us must confess before the Eucharistic Lord, despite His being so silent and poor: You are “My Lord and my God!”

b) Following the Example of the Holy Angels

Be it God the Creator behind the multiple enigmas in creation, or Christ the God-man through the hypostatic union, or Christ in His eucharistic presence—man always stands before a mystery. But precisely because He is a mystery and we cannot grasp Him, we should trust in those who know Him better through the beatific vision, the holy angels. They adore and praise Him in their light of vision. We should follow their example as ignorant students trust their teachers and follow their example. These pure and holy spirits want to help us to see the eternal majesty of GOD: in His creatures or in His Incarnate Son Who has even hidden Himself under the forms of Bread and Wine in the Eucharist. We should learn to recognize God’s presence also in the many grandiose or mysterious events of our life. The holy angels help us to see Him through these events and want to draw us into their response. In the words of Jesus, it is: “hallowed be Thy name!” The Catechism comments on this: “In adoration, this invocation is sometimes understood as praise and thanksgiving” (CCC 2807). We priests are consecrated to God “above the heavens!” In communion with the holy angels we more easily see that God is the Almighty One; He is the Redeemer and helper in every need. In Him we can and should trust!

3. The Future Christians—United with the Holy Angels in Prayer

We cannot sufficiently emphasize the value of this Psalm: its uplifting tone and its clear view of the sovereignty of Our Lord and God. The holy angels adhere firmly to Him, their gaze fixed on His face. These “servants of the Lord” burn constantly for love of God. They are living and bright flames for man; they lead him to God! They are active! They invite man to join in their adoration and praise. They teach man thanksgiving and surrender.

Their testimony should oblige us to do so, too.

—Let us, therefore, first call upon the angels to increase our trust in the goodness of God Who is above the heavens, Who looks after the lowly, helps them and raises them up. He is the source of goodness, our source of happiness.

—Let us secondly preach about the holy angels, bearing witness to their existence and presence in man’s life, as they bear witness to God for us. We want to enkindle in men trust of these servants of God at our side.

—Let us thirdly live and call others to the adoration of the Thrice-holy God. Indeed, this invocation must become a characteristic of our union with the holy angels: As the holy angels contemplate our Father in heaven, so should we men on earth contemplate and adore His Eucharistic Son in the tabernacles, the throne of God on earth. Does not each priest in union with the holy angels desire to lead his flock to the beatific vision in heaven? And if so, then would it not be fitting to begin by guiding them already here upon earth to perpetual Eucharistic praise on earth? [For more information regarding establishing Eucharistic Adoration in your parish call Lisa Janusa at 504-482-7540, who represents PEACE (Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Chapels Everywhere), committee member.]

In this way, we will help form the Christianity the Holy Father wants for the third millennium:

Yes, dear brothers and sisters, our Christian communities must become genuine “schools” of prayer, where the meeting with Christ is expressed not just in imploring help but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion, until the heart truly “falls in love.” (John Paul II, Novo millenio ineunte, 33)

4. Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

While the politicians try to do their job, let us fulfill our mission and clean the spiritual air (cf. Eph 6:10-13). Let us praise God with the holy angels. The holy Liturgy already guides us to this praise on Sunday night. We pray: “May we...rise again to praise You throughout another day”, with the all the world and creation. For “from age to age (time) You gather a people to Yourself, so that from East to West (space) a perfect offering may be made to the glory of Your name” (Third Eucharistic Prayer). Let us also frequently bless and, thinking on the holy angels, introduce the blessings with the words of this Psalm as proposed by the Church: “Our help is in the Name of the Lord—Who created Heaven and earth! Blessed be the name of the Lord—now and for ever.”

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC