Solomon and the Hidden Glory of God

In the Old Testament, a cloud indicated the presence of the Lord God. It was a cloud, for example, that led the people out of Egypt and guided them in their long journey through the wilderness to the promised land.  Dramatically, too, it was a cloud that Moses entered at Mount Sinai when he received from God the tablets of the Law that were still in the Ark of the Covenant when King Solomon had it carried into the newly constructed temple. It is not surprising, then that a cloud filled the temple on that occasion. The cloud is an apt symbol of the presence of God, for it conceals as well as reveals, corresponding to the fact that God is present and yet is unknowable. One entered darkness when one encountered God, for he is transcendent, beyond anything we can say or imagine.

In the New Testament, as well, we find a cloud when God was present during the Transfiguration, when a voice was heard saying, “This is my Beloved Son; listen to him! But now there is a difference, for when the disciples entered that cloud they were met, not with darkness but with the vision of the transfigured Jesus, whose face shone like the sun and whose garments were as white as snow. With him were Moses—who now witnessed the glory that had been denied him on Sinai—and Elijah—who had been taken to heaven on a fiery chariot to encounter there the splendour of the Godhead that was now revealed in the humanity of Jesus. We too, by our faith, have penetrated that cloud for Saint John assures us that “we have beheld his glory, glory of the only Son from the Father,” a statement confirmed by Saint Paul: “God has shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” The mystery of the unknowability God of the Old Testament has given way to what is in fact a far more mysterious revelation of God in the man Jesus, as testified to by Saint Paul in an unforgettable phrase,  “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”