Is Now and Ever Shall Be

PFA83070The second half of the Glory Be connects all of time with the profession of faith in the glory of the Trinity. Time can be summed up very simply as beginning, middle, and end. Last week we talked about “as it was in the beginning.” Next week we will talk about the end of time, and why our (very loose) English translation of this prayer says, “world without end.”

But this prayer, both in English and Latin, speaks of the time in the middle as, “is now and ever shall be.” Obviously this is two clauses put together – but it’s important to see how these two fit together. This part of the prayer encourages us to think of “now” in terms of “always.” The God of the beginning and end will always be who he is – and that means now, too. We need to remind ourselves that our now is part of always.

What is always true is true today. We need to insert our today, what is most practical and concrete and right in front of us, into our sense of the always, the doctrines that we believe remain forever. We need to put the ever changing flux of our now into contact with the things that never change, to connect ourselves to the unmoving center of the wheel.

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It’s very helpful in saying our prayers to pause, at least sometimes, after each phrase, so that we see what we are saying. And it is important to see where the pauses go.

With the Glory Be, we can pause, just for a moment, after we say, “glory.” Ah, yes, glory! But after that, we should not pause too quickly. Let us put together, “to the Father and to the Son.”  This is a relationship, and we better understand what the words mean when we put them together. Father and Son, yes – oh, right, that’s what we’re talking about. “And to the Holy Spirit.” This is another statement, which we can only appreciate if we pause after Father and Son, but that deserves recognition on its own.

As it was in the beginning.” Yes, we call to mind the beginning. “Is now and ever shall be.” If we break these two up, perhaps we risk missing the connection between the two, and making the prayer more of a big long list than it needs to be. Now and ever: those are inherently connected. And then “world without end.”

Just the briefest pause, to make sure we see that each of these phrases has its own thing to contribute. It can even help to count them on our fingers: that’s six points, one hand and a thumb. At least some of the time, we should pause just long enough to notice each of these six points.

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When we pray “is now and ever shall be,” we unite all of our now’s to the beginning. As God created the world in the beginning, so now he is still Creator, it is still all in his hands.

We point to the beginning of our faith, as well. We know that the God of Abraham, the God of Moses, and the God of Jesus Christ and of Mary is our God too. Much of traditional Catholic piety involves recalling those past events and applying them to ourselves. “Is now and ever shall be” is a powerful reminder that the God of the Bible does not belong to the past.

But these historical events encourage us to look back further, to the ultimate beginning – to look into the life of God himself. The Father eternally begets the Son. And “eternal” means that he begets him today, too. God is still the Father. Eternally that’s who he is, and who he is for us today. Everything comes back to the Father and the Son. How beautiful to be reminded: yes, this is the deepest truth about right now!

The fabulous prologue to John’s Gospel tells us of the Word, the eternal Son, “all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” Today too, and always, everything that exists somehow pours forth from the love of Father and Son. “Is now” tells us to look around and see our world, both the material world and human events, through that lens.

And finally, we look back too to the glory of God. It is too easy to forget that beauty, that grandeur, amidst the confusion of everyday life. But our shortest little prayer tells us, don’t forget, God is glorious today, too, and ever shall be.

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What little way could you meditate on eternal doctrines being real in our now, our today?

eric.m.johnston

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