The Glory in Gratitude
It is a word used rather often – glory. Today’s name for the one deity we have been discussing, the most well-known deity leading the attention of the world from polytheistic mythologies to monotheistic myths, is “El Hahabodh”. I’m sure I just haven’t been in the right place at the right time but I can honestly state that I have never heard this name for any god ever used. I find that interesting since the word “glory” or a form of it is often used.
C.S. Lewis wrote in an essay that “Glory suggests two ideas to me, of which one seems wicked and the other ridiculous. Either glory means to me fame, or it means luminosity.” Originally it meant heaviness or weight. The Hebrew word was “kbd”, often spoken as if it were “kabod” since ancient Hebrew written contained no vowels, only consonants. From weightiness or heaviness the word came to mean something or someone important and later, majesty. The word itself is used over five hundred and thirty times in the Bible, depending on which translation you are reading. It is said to be one of the most often repeated words in the Old Testament.
“Glory follows afflictions, not as the day follows the night but as the spring follows the winter; for the winter prepares the earth for the spring, so do afflictions sanctified prepare the soul for glory.” The man who said that quote, Richard Sibbe, was an Anglican minister, living at the end of the sixteenth century and the first part of the seventeenth century. Ordained in what was then the rather new Church of England, he returned to Cambridge as a lecturer having been a parish priest in London. Yet, as a child, his father dreamed of his son attaining glory by following in his footsteps. After all, being a wheelwright was not only a noble profession, it was a very necessary one. The father finally agreed to his son’s chosen field, admitting that Richard had “strong inclination to his books, and well-profiting therein”. Thus, at the age of 33, Richard achieved glory in completing his Bachelor of Divinity which provided the way for his being a minister of the faith. Such a path might give us an idea into his quote and his implication that glory comes only after sacrifice and hard work.
What is glory in our modern lives? Does attaining it or the perception of attaining it provide a guarantee for life? Public figures and stars of the entertainment industry give us examples that might suggest otherwise. Perhaps the better question is this: What do we glorify? Is the purpose of our living to become glorified? What do we show gratitude for and are we truly grateful for the little things which are actually the most important things in our lives?
Recently I overheard a dispute between two people. One kept saying “You think you know everything.” The initial topic that was being debated, that was the root of the dispute, was long forgotten. The one party repeating that the other thought they were perfect or knew everything had shifted the conversation to a discussion of egos. No longer discussing the original matter, this one party was attempting to “win” the argument and attain glory by doing so with accusations designed to make the other person feel badly. The initial disagreement was brushed aside by the need for this person to have glory. In psychological terms, they were boosting their own self-esteem by trying to attack the other person and the reason for this was because their original position could not succeed. It is a common tactic that is poorly served and yet, often used in bickering relationships, all for the sake of glory. When we do not fight fairly, as in the above example, can there really be any true glory? Perhaps that why C.S. Lewis’s quote about glory refers to it as both good and wicked.
The Abrahamic mythologies are not the only ones whose one deity was referred to it terms of glory. The Baha’i Faith notes that the Messenger of God is Baha’u’llah, a name that translates as “Glory of God”. In the Baha’i faith, the name Baha is above all and means glory or splendor.
In the holy writings which tell the mythology of the man known as Moses, the deity states that mortal men and women cannot see the glory; it is too powerful. Theologian Thomas Aquinas even warned about glory: “If, however, the love of human glory, though it be vain, be not inconsistent with charity, neither as regards the matter gloried in, nor as to the intention of him that seeks glory, it is not a mortal but a venial sin.”
Glory was also one of the first words used to describe the halos that are said to exist around the heads of angels and other holy beings. Medieval and Renaissance depicts them both with ovals above the head and circle surrounding the head, radiating larger around the back so as to be seen from the front. The faithful of these faiths are encouraged to “give God the glory” or the “Let your light so shine before men that they might see your good works and glorify your God.”
Is glory an attainable goal for those of us who are mere mortals? Should it be? When I go about my work today, should glory be in the back of my mind? The teachings of the holy mythologies of many belief systems reference glory but perhaps we are translating the word incorrectly. What if what we defined glory was really gratitude or being in charity with creation? Then our attempt to attain glory would be based upon the deed we do for others, not the deeds we do for ourselves.
If we consider glory as showing gratitude through charity for another person or people, would the world be different?? It might mean that when we provided a meal for ourselves and our family, we would do so for another. What if we spent half as much on our own clothes and donated the other half to organizations to clothe the needy? What if instead of fancy dinner parties we had potluck suppers and everyone brought items to donate to a local food bank? What if instead of seeking glory, we simply lived gratitude and did for others what had been done for us?
Maybe then, at the end of the day, it would not so much be about ourselves but about the entire creation of the world and instead of wondering how we are being seen or adored, we basked in the better world for all. Then, maybe….just maybe, we could go to sleep and instead of our mind racing over everything left undone or done wrong or how we were lacking or mistreated, simply close our eyes and whispered…”Glory be! Thank you.”