IN A GROUP of enquirers or those preparing for confirmation, I
find that the conversation quite quickly turns to "What happens
beyond this life?" This prayer is often in my mind, as I describe
how I try to picture what is traditionally referred to as the Last
Judgement. Once we are confronted by the reality of God's beauty,
power, and glory, our Christian hope is that we will be able to
respond to that vision of God, and to say "Yes!"
If the ways in which we have lived and whatever we have known of
God in this life have prepared us for this final encounter, we will
surely find that God's overwhelming love is something that we are
inescapably drawn to and into. But, since God gave us free will, it
may be that some, in effect, say "No" at the last, and turn away,
finding the holiness of God is for them unbearable.
As C. S. Lewis said, "Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of
absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again." Yet I
trust and pray that God's love is so attractive, so compelling,
that in fact no one chooses to turn away from it at the last. But I
have to allow the possibility that some might, and this would, in
effect, be hell: to see God, and not to bring oneself to say "Yes"
to God, but choose to turn away.
This prayer, then, is for me a good way of trying to reflect
imaginatively, to meditate on the Last Things, and to ask God so to
prepare me in this life that I may be able to say "Yes" more and
more, to be made ready for that final response.
I try to imagine what God is like, but the reality is always
beyond anything I can dream of or long for. I try to think of the
greatness of God's power, but all the forces and energies of the
universe, in the vast galaxies and the tiniest atoms, fall short of
helping me to comprehend the strength of God's love.
I believe that we are invited by God to share in glory; I talk
about God's glory often in worship, but the awesome and awe-ful
nature of God's glory is something that I will not easily be ready
The account of Moses asking to see God's glory (Exodus
33.12-end) lies behind this remarkable prayer. Originally written
by Janet Morley as an alternative collect for the Third Sunday
after the Epiphany, follow-ing the ASB lectionary, it was first
published in her collection All Desires Known (SPCK, new
Now it is given to us in Common Worship as a
post-communion prayer, and, although the impact and challenge of
the prayer remain, we have the reassurance that in the communion
that we have just shared, we have encountered God - and we have
God is no longer a stranger to us; for, in Christ, in word and
sacrament, we meet God face to face. We are no longer forbidden,
like Moses, to see God's glory; in fact, the vision of God's glory
is what we are destined for. But there is always more of God than
we can conceive, more of God ahead of us to dazzle an delight
In Byzantine tradition, it is only at the Transfiguration that
Moses finally sees God's face, when he and Elijah together behold
Jesus. Let us pray that, through our encounters with Christ, we may
be transformed from glory to glory, so that at the last we, too,
will be able to see God and live.
The Revd Dr Jo Spreadbury is the Vicar of Abbots Langley, in
the diocese of St Albans.
prayer for the week
O God, whose beauty is
beyond our imagining
and whose power we
show us your glory, as far
as we can grasp it,
and shield us from
knowing more than we can bear
until we may look upon
you without fear;
through Jesus Christ
Worship post-communion for the
Third Sunday after Trinity