By Michael Fitzpatrick
A Reading from Ezekiel 43:1-12
1 Then he brought me to the gate, the gate facing east. 2 And there, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east; the sound was like the sound of mighty waters; and the earth shone with his glory. 3 The vision I saw was like the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and like the vision that I had seen by the river Chebar; and I fell upon my face. 4 As the glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east, 5 the spirit lifted me up, and brought me into the inner court; and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. 6 While the man was standing beside me, I heard someone speaking to me out of the temple.
7 He said to me: Mortal, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet, where I will reside among the people of Israel forever. The house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they nor their kings, by their whoring, and by the corpses of their kings at their death. 8 When they placed their threshold by my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them, they were defiling my holy name by their abominations that they committed; therefore I have consumed them in my anger. 9 Now let them put away their idolatry and the corpses of their kings far from me, and I will reside among them forever. 10 As for you, mortal, describe the temple to the house of Israel, and let them measure the pattern; and let them be ashamed of their iniquities. 11 When they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the plan of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, and its whole form — all its ordinances and its entire plan and all its laws; and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe and follow the entire plan and all its ordinances. 12 This is the law of the temple: the whole territory on the top of the mountain all around shall be most holy. This is the law of the temple.
I think what is missing from first-world, 21st century human life is awe. We don’t stand in awe of much anymore. Our work, our families, our recreation — everything has been domesticated and made all-too-familiar. Even our big-budget blockbuster movies have spun stories of so many different CGI-enhanced superheroes saving the galaxy from total destruction that not even the silver screen really amazes us anymore. We’re a species unimpressed by the grandeur and mystery of our world.
Our reading in Ezekiel for today embodies the perfect remedy. I love this image of Ezekiel hearing “the glory of the God of Israel” coming forth with the sound of “many waters,” which for me evokes images of raging river rapids. Ezekiel’s response to this divine appearance is to fall upon his face. Think about our lives today; do we fall on our face in reverence before anything anymore? This old practice was used in the age of monarchies, and with the advent of our democratic societies, it was one of the first to go. All people are equal, and so no person bows to anyone.
But God is not a human, and we should fall on our face when the Lord comes to dwell in our midst. I came to the Anglican tradition through an Anglo-Catholic parish that taught me to reverence the altar and the reserved sacrament whenever I passed before them. When acolyting for Good Friday, I had the tremendous experience of joining the clergy in prostration before the altar, nose into the carpet as the choir echoed through the sanctuary. Putting my body through the motions of reverence before the Most Holy taught my spirit how to feel the awe of the Lord’s presence.
Maybe this weekend, seek the awe of the presence of God. Let Ezekiel’s vision and response be our guide. When we go into our time of prayer, even on our own, perhaps we consider restoring the practice of kneeling or bowing while we pray. Ask that our Creator might bring us into the inner court, where we can hear the coming sound of the Almighty, and see the earth full of the divine glory.
Michael Fitzpatrick is a doctoral student in philosophy at Stanford University. He attends St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, Calif., where he serves as a lay preacher and teacher.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Potomac, Md.
The Diocese of Calcutta (Church of North India)