Fading Glory

Some scattered thoughts on today’s first reading, which tells us about how Moses’ face was radiant after he had spoken to the Lord… St. Paul tells us (2 Cor 3:13) that Moses’ was a fading glory, but the true glory of God is to be found in the face of Christ.

The famous statue of Moses, carved by Michelangelo, in the Basilica of St. Peter-in-Chains in Rome. Moses is depicted with horns, allegedly based on a mistranslation of the passage concerning the glory on his face.

As I was thinking about today’s reading and also the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola, today’s saint, it dawned upon me that in his early years St. Ignatius had concentrated on things that belonged to the category of “fading glory”. The truth is that there are many things in this world that appeal to us and attract us – and to which we dedicate ourselves – that are not related at all to the glory of Christ. St. Ignatius had spent so much of his youth pursuing worldly success, power, illicit romances and flings, gambling, and other things incompatible with a relationship with Jesus. It was only when he was seriously injured in his military service, was laid-up in bed for a long time, and began reading the life of Christ and the lives of the Saints, that he beheld for the first time the true glory of God in Christ.

Suddenly he realized that the things to which he formerly had dedicated his life were passing away. He hadn’t been pursuing “the real thing”. From there came his great conversion, his eventual founding of the Jesuits, and his becoming a saint.

The glory of God transformed Moses and made his face radiate; the glory of God radiated to us from the face of Christ transforms us not just exteriorly but also in a deeply interior way. St. Paul said, “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18).

But how do we behold the glory of God on the face of Christ?

In prayer. In adoration. In contemplation. In service to others, especially those who suffer and are needy. In loving our neighbor. In a word: whenever we get outside ourselves and reach out to God and to others with sincere love. The challenge for each of us is to see Christ in all that we do. If we can’t see Jesus, then we need to ask: am I concentrating on something that belongs to the category of “fading glory”? O Lord, that I may see! (Luke 18:41)

When we bask in the glory of Christ, we are changed more and more into his image and likeness. It becomes visible in our lives in various external ways: on our countenance, in our joy, in our willingness to serve, in our ready concern for others, and so forth.

St. Ignatius of Loyola

St. Ignatius came to tell the difference between “fading glory” and “true glory” by applying a process of reasoning to his religious experience: he noticed that when he immersed himself in worldly things, he felt uneasy and agitated; when he focused on the things of God and his saints, he felt at peace, joyful, at ease. As we pray for peace of heart we also need to ask ourselves whether the various aspects of our lives are ordered to the greater glory of God or to things that are worldly and, in the end, will be burned up and pass away.

May St. Ignatius help us, by his prayers, to set aside all pursuits of “fading glory” and to live in the light of Christ and reflect that light always.

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