The word of the day is “glorified.” Today with 2 Thessalonians 1:1-10, we begin St. Paul’s second letter to his congregation in Thessalonica, the important crossroads of Macedonia. The Apostle writes from Ephesus in about 51 AD within months of his first letter. But now, he refers to the “persecutions and tribulations” that his congregation is undergoing (vs. 4). He consoles them that their afflictions are evidence that they are worthy of the kingdom of God for which they now suffer (vs. 5).
On the Day of Christ’s Coming
St. Paul assures the flock that God will settle accounts with their persecutors and those who neither know Him nor obey the gospel. God’s will carry out His justice when the Lord Jesus Christ returns in glory and power. In that “Day,” Paul writes, He will return “to be glorified in his saints” (10).
Orthodox hymnody periodically declares that “God is glorified in His saints.” For example, in Vespers on the Sunday of the Forefathers (Dec. 11), the choir remembers Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Daniel, and the Three Youths. At the end of the song, the choir sings, “Let us ask forgiveness of Christ our God who is glorified in His saints.
This thought comes from the Septuagint Greek Old Testament (LXX). The Orthodox Study Bible translates the Hebrew text: “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints” (OSB 89.7) However, the LXX renders the same verse, “God is glorified in the council of His saints” (Brenton Septuagint 89:7). In our reading, Paul uses a form of the same word for “glorified.” This term intensifies the sense of glory, stressing that the subject is highly exalted, esteemed, and honored (Strong’s #1740 and 1741, 88.).
The Glory of God Magnified
Glory belongs to God. Thus the multitude in heaven cry out in Revelation: “Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God” (Revelation 19:1). Christ will not come in divine glory in order to be glorified in the saints. But the magnification of His glory will be an effect of His return. As the works of students point to the greatness of their teacher, so the holiness of the saints reveals the glory of God.
Likewise, Christ will not return in order to be admired by the believers. The Greek word for “admired” suggests that one marvels or is awestruck (Strong’s #2296, 113). Thus, spellbound wonder will result from His appearance and be a reward for the believers’ faith (vs. 10).
Does the honor given to the saints somehow take away from the glory of God? Our answer is, “Not at all.” Certainly, we do not worship the saints. We reverence holy persons precisely because they worshipped the Holy Trinity with lives devoted to Him. The belief that God is “glorified in His saints” means that honoring the saints does not diminish God’s glory but enhances its manifestation.
During the Nativity Fast, we can gain inspiration and spiritual guidance by honoring the saints. We can let them lead us to devote our attention to the hope of the coming of Christ.