by The Rev. Rich Heinz
Ichabod? That seems like a funny name to bring up right now. Most often that name makes us think of Ichabod Crane and the headless horseman. But the name is recorded in 1 Samuel 4:21. Eli the Priest was judge over Israel. His two sons had died and the Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant. Eli fell over and died from the news. Eli’s daughter-in-law went into labor at the news, and gave birth to a son as she died. She named the baby Ichabod, which in Hebrew means, “Where is the Glory?”
The Old Testament Church understood that our God who is present everywhere, locates Himself in a wonderful, mysterious way. He causes His Glory to be present when and where He promises. At that time, it was with His Ark. The Ark was taken for a time, and the people began to realize that the Lord’s judgment was on the house of Eli and unfaithful Israel.
Ichabod? “Where is the Glory?” The Lord removed His Glory from them for a time, so that they might repent. Later, He restored that Glory as He brought the Ark back, blessed the Old Testament Church with His real presence, and dwelt among them in His Tabernacle.
In the New Testament Church, the Lord locates His Glory among us in His preaching of the Gospel and though His Holy Sacraments. Jesus IS the Glory of God, enfleshed as the Bethlehem Babe – the Suffering Savior and Coming King!
As you gather with His people week after week, you may or may not ask, “Where is the glory?” Whether or not the question is asked, it is always answered, as Saint John the Baptizer reminds us in our liturgy: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” He is God’s Glory. He alone is where we find that Glory!
Now that we know the answer to “Where is the Glory?” during Advent we may ask the question: “Where is the Gloria?” The Gloria in Excelsis, or “Glory be to God on High,” is an ancient hymn of the angels that we sing in the Divine Service.
Here God proclaims to us the joys of Christ coming as our Savior, born of the Blessed Virgin in Bethlehem, and risen from the dead for us.
In the midst of this season of repentance and reflection, awaiting the Coming King in hope, we refrain from the Gloria. We also may ask, “Ichabod?” “Where is the Gloria?” Yet we know where He is. Liturgically we fast from this hymn of praise, giving ourselves time to ponder its words before we are joyfully reunited with it. The anticipation builds during the Advent season, as Christmass draws closer, when we nearly burst at the joy of hearing the angels declare this Glory in Luke 2, and we have the privilege of joining their hymn!
Where is the Gloria? Where it has been all along. We simply fast from it that we may hunger for the One who IS God’s Glory – the One who lies in the manger – and praise Him adoringly with His holy angelic army! As you enter this period of repentant hope, drawing near the manger, remember that the Glory of God has not departed from you. He continually is forgiving and strengthening you, preparing you for His final coming, to gather you body and soul into His eternal glory!