Read: Isaiah 6:1-8
Isaiah’s vision is familiar to many. The song that the living creatures bearing God’s throne we make our own in the liturgy. “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth, heaven and earth are full of your glory.”
Not quite as well remembered is the Merkabah (lit.-the chariot), which is what Jewish believers call the scene from Ezekiel wherein the prophet beholds the throne of God. The Merkabah scene is the foundation though for most all Jewish mystical writings. It’s sort of their book of Revelation.
St. John’s Revelation is certainly meant to be read or heard as a related type of vision. When God appears, in all 3 scenes, there are big-time special effects. You kind of expect that. You can’t quite imagine the Almighty slipping into a room unnoticed.
On the other hand, the incarnation is sort of a subtle thing. Jesus sneaks into the world, in a manger, in a barn.
The presence of God which is mediated to us in the Divine Service always exhibits this same tension. God’s presence is marvellous and tremendous. But He also comes to us humbly; in bread and wine; in words spoke and sung by human lips. We wish to balance awe and solemnity, with familiarity and ease. We try to avoid becoming so loosey-goosey as to completely negate God’s presence. We, likewise, attempt not to try to overawe and overwhelm people by a lot of hullabaloo which just ends up coming off like elevator music or artificial flowers; or like an over-blown Hollywood production. Simplicity and magnificence challenge us with yet another paradox. We see the paradoxical nature of Jesus in this scene, with all of the tremendous buildup and grandeur; and then, in the beginning of the next chapter, after all of the fanfare…He shows up as a slain lamb. It’s not exactly anti-climactic. But it is arresting, dramatic and wonderful.