From the mouth of each Benedictine monk, nun, and oblate comes the antiphon, "Sustain me, O Lord, as you have promised that I may live and disappoint me not in my hope." Saint Benedict knew that everyone serious about a prayer life had to be sustained by the LORD. Early on in the monastic life, or in the life of anyone who seeks the LORD, there is an insatiable desire to declare the praises of God. Anyone, who catches a glimpse the LORD, never forgets it. Indeed, such a vision changes everything. This responsorial psalm paints a word icon of the unspeakable glory. The LORD is king and the sight of his glory takes away mere human breath. Indeed, to continue breathing in the presence of The Majesty, we need the breath of God, the Holy Spirit just to stand before His Splendor. The LORD is girt about with strength, the sight of which makes our legs tremble and our knees knock. Indeed, the LORD is the creator of heaven and earth. Upon his own majesty has he made the world firm, not to be moved. Reality is real. What we perceive is not mere perception; it is perception of what really exists. All that exists is contingent upon the will and mercy of the LORD. His Throne stands firm from of old, from ages past, the LORD is enthroned in majesty and splendor. Out of his greatness he speaks to us and his decrees are worthy of trust indeed. Only the LORD can provide the holiness we need to live and move and have our being with him for length of days, unto the ages of ages. When Isaiah looked up from the vacant throne of King Uzziah he caught a glimpse of the True King, the LORD, and he was filled with awe and wonder. In the presence of the Seraphim this newborn prophet dares to say aloud, "Here I am; send me!" The same Holy Spirit grasps those who follow the Master Christ our God. Indeed, we are not afraid to acknowledge the Lord Jesus before anyone. For we have seen the glory of the Father on the face of his Son, and this has changed everything. Such is the power of the Holy Spirit who instructs our hearts in holy wisdom day in and day out. It is the Word of God made flesh in Christ Jesus that is now made flesh in us, his body and blood, so that we become a living sacrifice of praise to the glory of the Father. Indeed, Our Father is faithful to his promises and he does not disappoint us in our hope.
Before we hear the Good News proclaimed at every Liturgy we join the not-yet-prophet Isaiah and touch our lips with the sign of the cross so that our wickedness might be removed and our sin purged. For indeed the glory of the LORD unfolding in the sacrament, called Church, and in the mysteries of the Liturgy has already grasped our hearts and summoned us to repentance. This vocation vision of Isaiah is a model of Liturgy. Indeed, it is a model of all our prayer, alone or with others in the Liturgy. With eyes of faith we gaze heavenward and see the LORD seated on his high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the whole universe, his temple. The Seraphim model for us what it is like to worship the LORD in all his glory. We have no wings to veil our faces or feet. We cannot hover aloft because the holiness of God is so great that we would burn our feet. However, if the Seraphim are humble, how can we not humble ourselves? We, too, join in the praise they have fashioned. With one voice we cry out, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!" Such a powerful voice, heard in heaven and echoed on earth, fills our hearts with the incense of great praise and opens the doors of our mind to a whole new power. In this display of glory in the Liturgy, we are summoned to see ourselves, as we really are, unclean and living among the unclean. Indeed, just to sing his "hosannas" draws our attention to the holiness of God and our own lack of holiness. We are drawn up swiftly into a vision of the way things are. The reality of our wounded, distorted, and sinful hearts is painful, startling, and absolutely necessary. Without his kind of self-awareness we continue to excuse ourselves from growth and justify our avoidance of conversion. It is the Seraphim who recognize our need and reach out to help us. Heaven sees and responds to our cries for deliverance. The Bright One flies to the altar and takes the tongs to handle an even brighter ember; he then touches the unclean lips and proclaims this Proto-Evangelion, "See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged." It is this conversion for Isaiah that finally models for us what it is to enter into the Liturgy and discover heaven on earth, the not-yet-Kingdom already present, the mystery of the Kingdom here and now in the celebration, song, conversion of those who become one in the Body of Christ, the Great High Priest who is offering the one sacrifice worthy of the Father in the Power of the Holy Spirit.
If they call the all-holy Son of the Father, Beelzebul, what can we expect? If the all-wise Teacher of the Nations is ridiculed and mocked, what can we expect? If the Master of Heaven and earth is crucified, what can we expect? This startling and painful awareness of what it means to be a disciple of Christ is confronted by the surprising and difficult command, "Therefore do not be afraid of them." Do not fear and do not live in anxiety! The Kingdom of God, which is hidden from the view of our contemporaries, will not be revealed to the whole world. When Christ our King comes from his heavenly throne to take us into the New Creation and to sit with him at the right hand of the Father. When the fullness of the Kingdom is here, all that is concealed will be revealed. What the LORD speaks to us in the darkness of faith will be proclaimed in the light of the New Day. What we hear in the tiny whispering wind will be shouted from every rooftop. No one who follows the Lord Christ needs to fear. If the Father knows every sparrow; will we be ignored? If the Lord Jesus acknowledges us before the Father, will we be ignored? Only if we ignore the Lord Jesus will the Father in heaven ignore us. How could we ignore someone who so loves us? How could we ignore the voice that speaks to us deep within at every liturgy: "Come children hear me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD?"