JULY 10, 2004 HOMILY
ISAIAS 6:1-8; MATTHEW 10:24-33
HOLY, HOLY, HOLY IS THE LORD OF HOSTS. HIS GLORY FILLS THE WHOLE EARTH. These words of the angels of the throne, as recorded by the greatest of Israel’s prophets, are among the most familiar to us. We repeat them daily
at the Eucharist as we begin the most sacred part of the liturgy. These words are a proclamation of God’s glory, given out by the holiest of the heavenly ministers. They have a particular resonance for this community, dedicated to the praise of God’s glory under the title of Our Lady of Praise. As we hear them in their original context, the inaugural vision of the prophet, we are confronted with the spontaneous reaction of this saintly and courageous visionary. His response to this magnificent revelation of the liturgy of the heavenly court is paradoxical. He reacts with dismay and
fear. Rather than experiencing consolation by this experience of God in his glory, he feels overwhelmed by his own unworthiness and threatened with death. “I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have looked at the King, the Lord of hosts.”
Only the pure can sustain the vision of God with security and find in it consolation and increased confidence. No mortal human is sufficiently pure while in this life for the surpassing gift of the clear vision of God, save by a special grace strengthening and elevating the spirit. Isaiah saw God with sufficient vividness to know himself in a new manner. In the light of God’s holiness he suddenly developed a keen consciousness of sin, knowing not only his own sinfulness but also that of others with whom he lived. This contact with the living God, then, was painful but it was also purifying.
“The seraph took a live coal from the altar with a pair of tongs and with it he touched my mouth and said: ‘See now, this has touched your lips, your sin is taken away.’”
Truly to know God is not only to love and praise him; it is also to gain fresh knowledge of our own state, and of our very self. Like Isaiah, we become more aware of our defects and sins; we readily acknowledge our own need for greater purification. When we receive some measure of this great gift we gain a new kind of respect for others, and are more inclined to criticize our self rather than our neighbor. A further result of such an encounter with the Lord is enhanced knowledge of our true self; we realize more clearly the purpose for which we are made.
For to encounter the living God is to recognize that we are made for Him. He alone answers to our most personal desires, our longing for an unending intimacy that is based on understanding and respect. May the Spirit who inspired the words of this sacred text and the grace of this Eucharist purify and strengthen us that we might, through our charity and our readiness to forgive others, be made worthy to stand in the presence of the Lord of glory and sing his praises now and for all eternity.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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