Deny. Take. Follow.

Jerusalem Cross: Representing the Five Holy Wounds

JMJ

The Readings for the 18th Friday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
Memorial of Our Lady of the Snows

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.

Matthew 16:24

THERE IS A PHRASE in the Catechism that gets bandied about, that drives me bonkers. In the English there is a mistranslation. That seems important. Here’s the paragraph in Latin:

Gloria Dei est ut haec manifestatio et haec communicatio Suae bonitatis, propter quas mundus creatus est, in rem ducantur. « Praedestinavit nos in adoptionem filiorum per Iesum Christum in Ipsum, secundum beneplacitum voluntatis Suae in laudem gloriae gratiae Suae » (Eph 1,5-6). « Gloria enim Dei vivens homo, vita autem hominis visio Dei. Si enim quae est per condicionem ostensio Dei vitam praestat omnibus in terra viventibus, multo magis ea quae est per Verbum manifestatio Patris vitam praestat his qui vident Deum ». Finis ultimus creationis est ut Deus, « qui conditor est omnium, tandem fiat “omnia in omnibus” (1 Cor 15,28), gloriam Suam simul et beatitudinem nostram procurando ».

¶294

Right here: Gloria enim Dei vivens homo, vita autem hominis visio Dei. It’s a quote from St Irenaeus of Lyon. Even though I quote it in Latin, the Latin is only the Catechism: St Irenaeus wrote in Greek. I’m searching for – but cannot find – a copy of the Greek. I realize at the top of this post that all that follows may be overturned by one Greek quote with a reference link.

Anyway, in the official English translation, it gets rendered as the oft-quoted “the glory of God is man fully alive; moreover man’s life is the vision of God.” Please note there is no superlative in the Latin. Nor is there in any of the other European Languages:

French: Car la gloire de Dieu, c’est l’homme vivant, et la vie de l’homme, c’est la vision de Dieu.
German: Denn Gottes Ruhm ist der lebendige Mensch; das Leben des Menschen aber ist die Anschauung Gottes.
Italian: Infatti la gloria di Dio è l’uomo vivente e la vita dell’uomo è la visione di Dio.
Spanish: Porque la gloria de Dios es que el hombre viva, y la vida del hombre es la visión de Dios.
Portoguese: Porque a glória de Deus é o homem vivo, e a vida do homem é a visão de Deus.

Each of these translations says that the Glory of God is “the life of man” or “a living man”. But there is no superlative. No “fully alive” in any of these things.

The reason it makes me bonkers is that “fully alive” sounds so much like “follow your bliss” and in the hands of the nefarious it turns into permission to out, loud, and proud, and in the hands of the misled it becomes pablum.

Glory though… let’s look at glory. In Greek, the word “glory” usually means radiance and shining light. The word itself, “Doxa” comes from a root meaning to “appear” and it has more to do with the visual experience of something. The Glory of God, therefore, is a “bright shining light” and it’s something that can blind us or reflect on our faces (as with Moses).

In Hebrew, the word is “Kavod” and it has little to do with a shining light. It means “weight”. It’s something felt rather than seen. God’s presence is, as it were, pressing down on us from above. The head covering traditional for Jewish males can be seen as the hand of the Holy One pressing down.

This weight – this reality – is felt in the presence of the pillar of fire pressing down from heaven. Here is something more real than the reality we have or see. This reality is our life. Turn in contemplation: this glory is the life of man. To rest in this light, to rest under the intense weight of this Presence is to become real. To dodge it is to miss the mark, to fall into oblivion.

In Yeshua this reality becomes both present to us and one of us. The Glory of God, the weight, the more-real-than-any-of-us, the Existing One, the One-Who-is, the Alpha and Omega, the Aleph and the Tav, enters our world as one of us.

Jesus the God-man.

Although I don’t think the line from St Ignatius bears this weight fully, I have heard one Orthodox priest say that the proper translation is “The Glory of God is the life of a man” with the man in question being Jesus. I’m ok with that reading as long as it is not the only meaning. It leads us to where I want to go:

Jesus’ act of self-emptying led from the Trinity, to the silence of the Womb of the All-Holy Virgin. God unable to speak, the word of God with only a baby’s cries. God with dirty diapers. God with daily chores. God with acne. Deny yourself. God with favorite foods and, most likely, not favorite ones. (“Young man, eat your auntie’s sweet potato surprise, and don’t forget to say ‘todah’“). God with stage fright on the day of his Bar Mitzvah. God taking up his daily life daily.

Just as we are all called to do. God making a sacrament out of every action man can make. Taking out the garbage? God has done this. Dozing off. God’s been there. God is so in love with you that he has done this. The life of man. It is God’s glory.

But that is not all: for on the Cross he was lifted up – it called it his glorification. It is his throne. And so daily we must walk in the way Yeshua walked: because he, in his person, is God walking among us. As the Cross was the Glory of Messiah it must be our Glory as well. As the cross bore the weight of Messiah it must bear our weight as well.

The Glory of God is the Life of Man.

See?

Author: Huw Richardson

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He feeds the homeless and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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