I remember an elderly saint in the church of my youth. So moved by a sacred moment, her voice would tremble and she could only utter a few quiet words with holy reverence: Look there now. Glory.
In Scripture, few words evoke as much solemn mystery as the word glory. Glory speaks of brilliance, radiant beauty. Glory finds its way into the sentence whenever we’re struggling to describe the ineffable. When God’s presence filled Israel’s Tabernacle and when God’s voice thundered atop the Mount, glory escaped the trembling lips of both priests and children. These beautiful terrors evoked a wonder too large for language. Glory was the only thing one could think to say. Look there now. Glory.
St. Paul made bold use of the word. “When Christ, who is our life appears,” wrote the apostle, “then we will also appear with Christ in glory.” Did you catch that — Paul speaks not only of Christ’s appearance as glorious, but yours too. According to Paul, in that day, when our true life (our true self) trots out in plain view, then we will have truly appeared. And what a grand entrance it will be. In that moment, we’ll see not only Christ’s glory, but our glory, our radiance in God. In the good end, when all things return to their center, we will find God (with Eden echoes) naming us good, grinning wide and announcing us glorious. Now look there. Glory.
This is why Gregory of Nyssa spoke of the soul’s divine beauty as a blade darkened with the rust of sin (rusted, not ruined), a blade that must be (and would be) returned to shimmering splendor. This is why St. Irenaeus insisted that “the glory of God is a human fully alive.” This is why it is our great travesty if we only see our (or another’s) wretchedness or malfeasance, if we only notice all the fear or hatred, if we succumb to the lie that anyone (ourself included) is ruined. This is why it will never do to write someone off or give up on their return or think our shame concludes the tale.
You are meant for magnificence, not squalor. God marked you for his dance partner at the big finale, and God gets what God wants. Whatever dogs you, whatever whispers ruin in the cold night, whatever troubles your memory or your hope, remember this: glory is in you, and glory wins the day.
It’s the church’s job to help us see what’s coming, to help us see what’s true even now, particularly when what’s true lies buried underneath rubble and tears. Some of us are skilled at pointing out the sin, but our truest vocation is to point out the glory.
Look there now. Glory.