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Who Shall Not Revere You, O Lord

Homily for Wednesday of the 34th Week in Ordinary Time

In the late 1960’s when the liturgy was first celebrated in the vernacular, a French musical composer by the name of Lucien Deiss became very popular. He was a religious priest of the Congregation of the Most Holy Spirit, or the “Spiritans” as they were popularly known. He produced more than three volumes of Biblical Hymns and Psalms. One of the more popular was the setting that he wrote for the hymn that we heard in the first reading for today. Using “Alleluia” as the refrain, the hymn became one of the most frequently used Gospel Acclamations of its day. I remember singing it myself. Believe it or not, we sang it so often that I still remember all four verses by heart.

It is actually the third verse that most vividly caught my imagination: “Who shall not revere you, O Lord, who shall not give glory to your name! You alone are holy.” I believe that it was this verse that helped me to finally understand what we meant by “fear” of the Lord, the term that is used in the lectionary this morning. Reverence for or revering the Lord was Lucien Deiss’ way of understanding what it meant.

The question that is asked in the Book of Revelation is rhetorical. The answer is obvious. When we look at God’s works, when we come to see the Lord’s ways, we can hardly do anything but revere or fear the Lord. God’s might and power are beyond our human imagination.

This hymn is sung by those who are standing on a sea of glass who have won a victory over the beast. The sea of glass is the sacred author’s way of stating that God has overcome the might of the sea. The depths of the sea are the very epitome of chaos in the minds of the ancient Israelites who greatly feared the sea. To this day, Israel is one of the only nations which lies on a body of water that does not have a navy. To most Israelites, the notion of swimming in the sea was simply inviting death to overcome them. The sea was the home of Leviathan and the great sea creatures. The beast is the sacred author’s characterization of the Roman Empire. So those who are singing this hymn are the martyrs who have triumphed over Rome by giving up their lives for their faith. The sea has become so calm in the face of their victory that it is like a sheet of glass.

A healthy sense of reverence is essential for anyone who believes in God. The liturgy reminds us over and over again that God is a mighty God. The Gospel for today also speaks of the martyrs in a tangential way when it reminds us that it is through perseverance in the faith that we will secure our immortal souls.

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

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