Sunday, June 07, 2009
Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam. This is my favorite line from the Latin text of the Gloria, which is heard each Sunday during Mass, although usually in English in this diocese. Today I heard the Latin because Stella and I attended the eleven o'clock at the cathedral, a Mass replete with smells, bells, hymns, and chant.
The current translation of the line is "we praise you for your glory." The "praise," however, is not quite right. Literally, the line is "we thank You for Your great glory." And this observation is more than pedantry. A different conception of human and divine reality is at stake; a different feeling for God's being and our own is involved.
Here's what I mean: I can praise a distant thing for its own proper excellence without feeling that it touches or concerns me at all. But thanks is usually the thing to do when I have received a benefit; gratitude is the feeling I ought to have when my own life is now better since someone else has done something good for me.
So it strikes me as a rather wild idea to thank God for His glory. Yes, I suppose that left to myself I would be inclined to thank Him for what He has done, especially what He has done for me: thanks for my Baptism, thanks for my faith, thanks for my computer, etc.
To thank Him for what amounts to His own Being is something I wouldn't have thought of. And I admit: thanking God for being God isn't something I normally think of in the course of a weekday. But the Church, in this particular form of worship, does teach me to give thanks for this. It's something I haven't quite got my mind around, yet it does make sense.
Much in the modern world makes it seem like life is meaningless. Much in current American culture gives off the impression that the sexiest and savviest know the truth of things: all is just matter in a swirl, and happiness is just grabbing something pleasant from out of the swirling mess.
But it turns out that the ultimate ground of reality is not without meaning. In fact, it has almost too much meaning - or so it can feel to a mind not properly disposed to reverence that ultimate ground. Instead of swirling about and bumping into things nasty and nice, we are called by God to partake in the life of the Trinity - to live lives that are divine in their understanding and acceptance of what is true, good, and beautiful.
It would, in a way, be easier just to swirl around.
The mind, though, that has some faith, some hope, and some charity knows otherwise. Even in this modern world, sometimes pulled hither by bizarre attractions and sometimes pushed thither by current notions, the Catholic mind looks up to God and is grateful for His glory.
I, at least, am grateful for the Glory; it casts over the whole spectacle of my own life a strange and lovely light. And so I say, yes: gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam. Amen.