I’m reading the Revelation of St. John currently, and I’m struck today by 13:6:
Then [the beast] opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven.”
It strikes me that the worship of the Church is to do the precise opposite. In fact, it is “the beast” who does the opposite. The worship of God is ever in the mouths of the angels, and we on earth are called to join them. Blasphemy is a total and utter twisting and denial of praise. Without praise, without God’s eternal glory, there can be no blasphemy.
The beast opens his mouth against God. We, rather, open our mouths for God: “Glory to You, O God, glory to You.” We ascribe to God holiness: “Holy God, holy mighty, holy immortal: have mercy on us.” “Heaven and earth are full of Your glory. Hosanna in the highest!”
The beast blasphemes God’s name; we revere it: “hallowed be Your name.” “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.” “Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.”
The beast blasphemes God’s tabernacle, His dwelling; we esteem this dwelling: “All creation rejoices, in you, O Full of Grace: glory to you.” “It is truly right to bless you, O Theotokos, ever-blessed and the mother of our God. More honorable than the cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim, without corruption you gave birth to God the Word. The very Theotokos, we magnify you.” “Holy is Your temple; wonderful in righteousness” (Ps. 64:5 LXX).
The beast blasphemes “those who dwell in heaven”; we honor them, for “God is wonderful in His saints” (Ps. 67:35 LXX): “You were revealed to your flock as a measure of faith, an image of humility, and a teacher of self-control.” “The memory of the righteous is worthy of praise” (tropar to St. John, cf Prov. 10:7). “The righteous will be in everlasting remembrance” (Ps. 112:6). “Praise befits the just” (Ps. 33:1).
It troubles me when Christians tire of praise, blessing God’s name, honoring His most-pure Mother, and glorifying Him in His saints. Ascriptions of God’s praise in Orthodox liturgy are endless. So, too, the hallowing of His name. The honoring of the Theotokos is hardly an addition to the liturgy. Without it, it ceases to be fully-Christian worship. Also, ascribing praise to the saints.
God is not worshiped in isolation, as He is in Islam. It is not possible to worship God properly and to not honor the All-holy and His saints. This is because God indeed is worshiped in His person, and this is rightly unique and utterly singular: No one else is worthy of worship. But we praise God for His mighty acts of salvation and grace and power and love. And these are supremely revealed in the lives of the saints for God’s mercy and power is revealed in and through them.
In Christian faith – the faith of Christ – God is not cooped up in an isolated heaven. He “comes down” (creed) and is incarnate in His beloved Son, Who calls to Himself men and gives them His Spirit – the Spirit of power and of sonship. The power of God is no longer to be found in great cosmic miracles but in transforming grace in individual lives.
We rightly recount with joy the great salvation through the sea, and the deliverance from the fiery furnace, and the restoration of the children of Israel from captivity. But more, we rejoice in a dishonest tax-collecter turned disciple, a prostitute turned worshiper, a persecutor turned evangelist. These are the mighty works that those of yore pointed toward.
If the tabernacle of spun thread and the ark overlaid with gold were beautiful, how much more so is the person of the Holy Virgin who contained that Presence within herself “yet was not consumed” (irmos, canticle 9, Lazarus Saturday)? If the bringing forth of water from the rock in the desert to quench temporal thirst was great, how much more so the “water of life” provided the woman at the well? If the crossing of the Jordan was a miracle – which immediately closed back upon itself – how much more so the crossing over from death to life of a single human soul in the grace-filled waters of Holy Baptism?
In the hymns and prayers of the Church’s liturgy, we never cease to give God “the glory due His name” (Ps. 96:8). We worship His thrice-holy, unimaginable divinity; and we praise His acts of power and favor; and we especially “tell forth His salvation from day to day” as we honor the saints in whom He is glorified – who reveal in themselves lives redeemed unto “glory, honor and immortality” (Ro. 2:7).
It is for just this purpose, this result, that He humbled Himself unto death, “even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8).