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Vol. XIII, May 2007

 

“Bless the Lord, angels of the Lord,
Praise and Glorify Him Forever!” (Dan 3:58)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

In our first meditation on the angels in the book of Daniel we already had a chance to look up to the greatness and holiness of God. Every angel leads us to Him through his “face,” through his word and through his work: “The praise of God unites man with the angels.” (Last Circular) Take the case of the three youths who were thrown into the “burning fiery furnace”: they praised God, and the angel joined them in the flames, protecting them from all harm (cf. Dan 3:27). The Church has integrated this song of praise into the Divine Office; we sing it, at least, every second Sunday with her and in the name of the entire creation. How fitting, therefore, to reflect more about it in order to unite ourselves each time we sing it more consciously with these exemplar servants of God.

1. God above the Cherubim

The young men are not only in exile, far from their country and culture. They were hindered from living their faith in tranquility and in communion with the people around them. They were positively attacked with ideas and commandments contrary to their faith. John Paul II commented in his Catechesis on the Liturgy of the Hours:

“The Canticle, traditionally known as of the three young men, is similar to a flame that lights up the darkness of the time of oppression and persecution, a time that has often been repeated in the history of Israel and of Christianity itself. We know that the persecutor does not always assume the violent and grim face of an oppressor, but often delights in isolating the just person with mocking and irony, asking him sarcastically: ‘Where is your God?’ (Ps 41[42], 4.11).” (February 19, 2003)

The more deeply we perceive the truth of the Holy Father’s statement, the more we should wish to make our own the prayer of these young men and assimilate it. We read:

“Then all three in unison began to sing, glorifying and blessing God in the furnace, with the words: May you be blessed, Lord, God of our ancestors … May you be blessed in the Temple of your sacred glory, exalted and glorified above all for ever: blessed on the throne of your kingdom, … enthroned on the winged creatures, … blessed in the expanse of the heavens, exalted and glorified for ever. Bless the Lord, all the Lord's creation: praise and glorify him for ever!” (Dan 3:51-59)

a) The first lesson from these young men, which we as members in the Work of the Holy Angels wish to take to heart is the praise of God Who is above the Cherubim. “E nthroned on the winged creatures” or “above the Cherubim,” tells us that God is wiser than the most knowledgeable spirits , that is, the Cherubim in the traditional understanding of this choir.   His wisdom embraces all that exists. What is unknown to the pure spirits is clear and lies open before Him, the Creator. Once the Psalmist said: “Even darkness to you is not dark, and night is as clear as the day. You created my inmost self, … a wonder am I, and all your works are wonders. … How hard for me to grasp your thoughts, how many, God, there are!” (Ps 139:12-15,17). And when Job could not fathom the mysterious way of God’s work, God Himself merely pointed to His infinite, transcendent wisdom and work in creation (cf. Job 38-42). This is one part of the message of this song.

b) The second lesson lies right before us: The three youths called upon all creation to “bless the Lord” their God, the material and spiritual creatures, the ancestors from the past and all those presently alive to praise and glorify God for all the future, “for ever and ever”: “Bless the Lord, angels of the Lord, praise and glorify him for ever! Bless the Lord, heavens, praise and glorify him for ever! Bless the Lord, powers of the Lord, praise and glorify him for ever!” (Dan 3:61). The three youths reached out particularly to the “angels of the Lord,” “the heavens,” “the powers of the Lord.”   We know that the angels praise the Lord at every moment and unceasingly. “Day and night they never cease to sing, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!’ And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him Who is seated on the throne, Who lives for ever and ever,” also men, the Saints in heaven, “the twenty-four elders fall down before Him … cast their crowns before the throne, singing, ‘Worthy art Thou, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for Thou didst create all things, and by Thy will they existed and were created’.” (Rev 4:8,11)

2. Praise in the midst of the furnace

Men and angels and all that exists were created to praise and glorify God. To correspond to this existential call can be both easy and difficult.

a) The heroic example of the three

It surprises us, when men want to praise and start out to glorify God in a situation such as that in which the three young men found themselves, namely, bound hand and foot and thrown into the “burning fiery furnace.” That is heroic. It is beyond nature not to forget God and His omniscience when we are threatened with death or even sent into death, as these three were. They freed themselves spiritually with the spiritual help of the angel through such a living faith and religious attitude. They were also saved physically by God’s response, for He sent an angel to their aid. It is possible for man to be taken into the angels’ praise by joining in their glorification of God. They looked not into the flames and were not paralyzed by the imminent danger of life. They looked up to God first and paid but secondary attention to the danger. They took their refuge in the Lord.

This we learn in the Work of the holy Angels: “ He who can pray well even in darkness, he who can sacrifice unconditionally without setting bounds to God, he who always thanks from the bottom of his heart, also for the cross, is the right guide to God.” (Maxims of Mother Gabriele, April 19; cf. 1 Cor 1: 20-25 ).

b) The angelic lessons

We may conclude that the three young men acted under angelic inspiration, first of all because their response is heroic, that is, superhuman. And secondly, because the form of their response is precisely what the angels teach man: “T he angel (Raphael) called the two of them (Tobit and Tobias) privately and said to them: ‘Praise God and give thanks to him; exalt him and give thanks to him in the presence of all the living for what he has done for you. … Do not be afraid; you will be safe. But praise God for ever’.” (Tob 12:6,17). St. Alphonsus narrates this incident from the life of John Tauler: He asked God to send him someone to teach him the real spiritual life. After a while, he was told to go to a church. There he found a beggar before the door. He wished him “Have a good day!” But this man answered: “I have never had a bad day! Because when I was hungry, I praised the Lord! And when it rained or fell snow, I thanked Him. When someone sends me away, I glorify God.” He was never unhappy, he said, because “I have the custom to wish all that God wishes, without restrictions.” (Cf. St. Alphonsus, On the Divine Will, chapter 3). This fits in well with the example of the three young men who sang: “Bless the Lord, fire and heat, praise and glorify him for ever! Bless the Lord, cold and warmth, … Bless the Lord, dew and snow-storm, …frost and cold, praise and glorify him for ever!” (Dan 3:66-69).

3. With the angels’ help let us bless the Lord!

Dionysius, the Carthusian, said: “The holy angels assist the Creator with filial fear, and praise Him with the deepest inclination of their mind; so also we little poor people must praise, assist and serve with all reverence and fear, with all submission and humility before the immense majesty of God and in the sight of the angels, … Thus, the holy angels enjoy our psalms…”

a) A short reflection invites us to such a union with the holy angels: God is everywhere and has all things in His hands. Therefore, there is no place where He should not be praised and glorified. Nothing happens which He does not plan and allow with His fatherly care. So it is right to give Him thanks and praise always and everywhere. “The harder and the more impassable your path becomes, the more ardently you should love, praise and trust God, for you are on the way of the cross, the right way to heaven.” (Maxims of Mother Gabriele, May 7). The greatest example we have in Jesus Himself. When He entered into His Passion, He looked up to His Father again and again: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” (Mt 26:39) In this way He prayed for three hours, “saying the same words.” (Mt 26:44; cf. Lk 23:46).

b) This all-embracing understanding of God’s presence and providence is expressed in the angels’ song of adoration: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of power and might, Heaven and earth are full of Your glory.” (Cf. Last general Circular Letter of the OA). We may also recall how the shorter “Glory be” proclaims His glory from the beginning to the end of eternity, if we may speak of it in this temporal fashion. When we repeat it with confidence, it is light in darkness, life in the midst of death. It brings grace where there is sin, hope to those near despair. Of Fr. John Hardon SJ it is said that he literally imitated the three young men: When some person or event was about to take his peace, he started to say: “Mary, bless the Lord!” “Lost work on the Computer, bless the Lord!” etc., and he repeated it so many times till light filled his heart again to the point that he was able to control his emotions and surrendered all to God.

4. Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

Life leads us to the Cross, and there is God waiting for us. We recognize that God knows infinitely better than we. God is always right, as people say! Who wants to be His counselor? We should join the three young men and the holy angels often in their praise of God. Then, “our soul (will) becomes a very fine instrument upon which our Angels offer their adoration to God!” (Maxims of Mother Gabriele, May, 16). We learn from them: The more we believe in the omniscience of G o d, the easier we trust in His omnipotence, even in the midst of trials, and the deeper we love Him above and beyond all reason and obstacles.

Fr. Titus Kieninger ORC