Clothed in Glory

The Annunciation. Oldest surviving icon of the Annunciation, Rome, Via Salaria, Catacomb of Priscilla, mid-2nd century.

The Annunciation. Oldest surviving icon of the Annunciation, Rome, Via Salaria, Catacomb of Priscilla, mid-2nd century.

Clothed with the Glory of God

When we discuss the communion of persons, which is a sign[1] and symbol of the communion the trinity has with itself, we can then understand what the scriptures mean when they speak of Adam and Eve being naked, and not ashamed (Ge 2:25).[2] By nature the man and the woman were in full communion with each other, and full communion with God (Ge 2:8). The fathers of the church believed Adam and Eve were thereby clothed with the glory of God.

The obvious question is whether the idea of the original and prototypical humanity being clothed with the glory of God has any scriptural foundation. In the introduction to Robert Alter’s translation of Psalms, he notes the way the language of Psalms presents the idea of light’s being a mythological property of deity, of God wearing light as a garment, and of God stretching out the heavens as a garment.

God, as we note in Psalm 27[3], is associated with light — in that instance, because light, archetypically, means safety and rescue to those plunged in fearful darkness, but also because radiance is a mythological property of deities and monarchs. Psalm 104 is a magnificent celebration of God as king of the vast panorama of creation. It begins by imagining God in the act of putting on royal raiment: “Grandeur and glory you don” (hod wehadar lavashta). The psalmist then goes on: “Wrapped in light like a cloak, / stretching out the heavens like a tentcloth” (verse 2). What makes the familiar figure of light for the divinity so effective is its fusion with the metaphor of clothing. The poet, having represented God donning regalia, envisages Him wrapping Himself in a garment of pure light (the Hebrew verb used here is actually in the active mode, “wrapping”). Then, associatively continuing the metaphor of fabrics, he has God “stretching out the heavens like a tent-cloth,” the bright sky above becoming an extension of the radiance that envelopes God.[4]

The association of God with light is the source for the phrase describing Jesus Christ as “light from light” in the Nicene Creed. Since Sacred Scripture speaks of God being clothed in light, and of spreading out the heavens like a tentcloth, it is only natural to extend that idea to original and prototypical humanity. St. Ephrem the Syrian writes: “God clothed Adam in glory”; and again: “It was because of the glory with which they were clothed that they were not ashamed. It was when this glory was stripped from them after they had transgressed the commandment that they were ashamed because they were naked”[5] In like manner, St John Chrysostom writes: “[W]hile sin and disobedience had not yet come on the scene, they were clad in that glory from above which caused them no shame. But after the breaking of the law, then entered the scene both shame and awareness of their nakedness.”[6]

The 17th century mystic Jacom Böhme remarks:

Man should have walked naked upon the earth, for the heavenly [part] penetrated the outward, and was his clothing. He stood in great beauty, glory, joy and delight, in a child­like mind; he should have eaten and drunk in a magical manner; not into the body, as now, but in the mouth there was the separation; for so likewise was the fruit of Paradise.[7]

Such was the state of humanity in Paradise. Yet once Adam had sinned and the glory of God had departed from him, it was immediately clear to him that he no longer belonged in Paradise. St. Ephrem the Syrian, explains this in the seventh verse of his second Hymn on Paradise:

At its boundary I saw
figs, growing in a sheltered place,
from which crowns were made that adorned
the brows of the guilty pair,
while there leaves blushed, as it were,
for him who was stripped naked:
there leaves were required for those two
who had lost their garments;
although they covered Adam,
still they made him blush with shame and repent,
because, in a place of such splendor,
a man who is naked is filled with shame.[8]

There are striking parallels between this hymn and the account of the Philistines capturing the Ark — how the pregnant wife of Phineas, upon hearing this, gave birth. “And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel” (I Sam 4:21). It is only after the fall, after the glory has departed, and after full communion of persons has been lost, that the man and the woman objectified each other as individuals rather than persons partaking of the same nature; in their fallen state they saw themselves as naked before each other and before God.[9]

The reader will no doubt be reminded of how the Ark of the covenant was shrouded in the “thick darkness” of the Holy of Holies (I Kings 8:12); and of how in Ezekiel chapters 8-10, the prophet is given a vision of the glory of God, the defilement of the temple, and how the glory of God departed from the temple as a consequence for Israel’s sin. In this manner we come to the understanding that the glory with which Adam and Eve were clothed, or overshadowed, is natural to mankind in the state of original righteousness, a state of communion with God. We also understand that the glory of God, with which they were clothed, would quite rightly depart as a consequence of Adam’s sin. In this context, we note that after the Babylonian captivity and the rebuilding of the temple, Ezra makes no mention of the glory of God returning, filling the temple, and overshadowing the Ark. Instead, the return of the Shekinah glory came at the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel informed the blessed virgin that the Holy Ghost would come upon her and the power of the highest would overshadow her. What we see at the annunciation (and in Revelation 12), is the blessed virgin clothed with the glory of God, as was Eve in the garden — which points to the Incarnation as the inauguration of God’s plan for reconciliation and recreation, for the reestablishment of that perfect communion between God and man, and between each human person.



[1] On the nature of the sign and the thing signified, Karl Barth notes: “Sign and thing signified, the outward and the inward, are, as a rule, strictly distinguished in the Bible, and certainly in other connexions we cannot lay sufficient stress upon the distinction. But they are never separated in such a (“liberal”) way that according to preference the one may be easily retained without the other.” (Barth, Church Dogmatics The Doctrine of the Word of God, Volume 1, Part 2 1956, 179) In other words, the sign always points to the thing signified. However, if we believe in the thing signified, we have to accept the sign as well—as, for example, with the virgin birth being the sign of the Incarnation (Isa 7:14).

[2] (John Paul II 2006, 163)

[3] The Lord is my light and my rescue.

Whom should I fear?

The Lord is my life’s stronghold.

Of whom should I be afraid?

Ps 27:1, Robert Alter’s translation (Alter 2007, xxv-xxvi; 91)

[4] (Alter 2007, xxviii)

[5] (St Ephrem the Syrian n.d., 99, 106)

[6] (Louth, Conti and Oden, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Old Testament I, Genesis 1-11 2001, 72)

[7] (Böhme 2009)

[8] (St Ephrem the Syrian 1989, 87)

[9] (Lossky, The Creation 1989, 77)



Alter, Robert. 2007. The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Barth, Karl. 1956. Church Dogmatics The Doctrine of the Word of God, Volume 1, Part 2: The Revelation of God; Holy Scripture: The Proclamation of the Church. New York: T&T Clark Ltd.

Böhme, Jacom. 2009. “Mysterium Magnum (part one).” Gnosis research. October 9. Accessed November 15, 2010.

John Paul II. 2006. Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body. Boston: Pauline Books & Media.

Lossky, Vladimir. 1989. “The Creation.” In Orthodox Theology: An Introduction, by Vladimir Lossky, edited by Ian Kesarcodi-Watson and Ihita Kesarcodi-Watson, 51-78. Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.

Louth, Andrew, Marco Conti, and Thomas C. Oden. 2001. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Old Testament I, Genesis 1-11. Vol. 1. 28 vols. Westmont: InterVarsity Press.

St Ephrem the Syrian. n.d. “Commentary on Genesis.” Accessed June 9, 2013.

—. 1989. Hymns on Paradise. Translated by Sebastion Brock. Crestwood: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.


Blessed Among Women (Luk 1:42)

Visitation ( visit of the Blessed Virgin Mary with Saint Elizabeth, Virgin Mary shown pregnant ), 14th century Wallpaintings, Timios Stavros Church in Pelendri, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List

The Visitation of the Virgin Mary to Elizabeth

Then said Ozias unto her, O daughter, blessed art thou of the most high God above all the women upon the earth; and blessed be the Lord God, which hath created the heavens and the earth, which hath directed thee to the cutting off of the head of the chief of our enemies. (Judith 13:18)

And she [Elizabeth] spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. (Luk 1:42)

After saving her city by beheading Holofernes, the commanding general of the Assyrian army, Judith brings the head to Ozias, one of the governors of Bethulia. This happens in much the same way as the story of the death of Sisera by the hand of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite (Jud 5:24). A great deal of similarity exists between the praise heaped upon Jael by Deborah and Barak, and the praise heaped upon Judith by Ozias. Nevertheless, Elizabeth is clearly quoting from Judith, whereas Ozias — in his praise of Judith — is alluding to the praise of Jael.

Judith Beheading Holofernes (Caravaggio)

Judith Beheading Holofernes (Caravaggio)

The Apocrypha and the Magnificat (Luk 1:46-55)

Visitation ( visit of the Blessed Virgin Mary with Saint Elizabeth, Virgin Mary shown pregnant ), 14th century Wallpaintings, Timios Stavros Church in Pelendri, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List

The Visitation of the Virgin Mary to Elizabeth

The Lord hath cast down the thrones of proud princes, and set up the meek in their stead. (Sirach 10:14)

He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. (Luk 1:52)

Mary’s Magnificat is one of the most well known prayers in all of Scripture. What is less well known is that it is basically one scripture quotation or citation after another. Given that context, it would be hard to say that citations Sirach are not scripture when everything else is. Here is the text of the Magnificat, verse by verse, with all its scriptural quotations and allusions.[1]

  • 46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
    • 1 Sa 2:1 My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high.
    • Ps 34:2,3 My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.
    • Ps 103:1 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
  • 47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
    • Ps 18:46b Exalted be God my Savior!
    • Isa 61:10 I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.
  • 48a For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden:
    • 1 Sam 1:11 And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.
    • Ps 138:6 Though the LORD is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar.
  • 48b for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
    • Gen 30:13 And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name Asher.
    • Luk 1:28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
    • Luk 1:42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
  • 49a For he that is mighty hath done to me great things;
    • 1 Sam 2:1 And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation.
    • Ps 71:19 Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, you who have done great things. Who, O God, is like you?
    • Isa 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.
    • Hab 3:18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
  • 49b and holy is his name.
    • 1 Sa 2:2 There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you.
    • Ps 22:3 You are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.
    • Ps 71:22b I will sing praise to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel.
    • Ps 89:18 Indeed, our shield belongs to the LORD, our king to the Holy One of Israel.
    • Ps 99:3 Let them praise your great and awesome name – he is holy.
    • Ps 103:1b Praise his holy name.
  • 50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
    • Ps 103:17 From everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children.
  • 51a He hath shewed strength with his arm;
    • Ps 89:10 Thou hast broken Rahab in pieces, as one that is slain; thou hast scattered thine enemies with thy strong arm.
  • 51b he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
    • 1 Sa 2:3 Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed.
    • 2 Sa 22:28 You save the humble, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.
    • Ps 89:10 You crushed Rahab like one of the slain; with your strong arm you scattered your enemies.
  • 52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
    • Sirach 10:14 The Lord hath cast down the thrones of proud princes, and set up the meek in their stead.
  • 53a He hath filled the hungry with good things;
    • 1 Sa 2:5b but those who were hungry hunger no more.
    • Ps 103:5 who satisfies your desires with good things.
    • Ps 107:8,9 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
  • 53b and the rich he hath sent empty away.
    • 1 Sam 2:5 Those who were full hire themselves out for food. (Note: This is the prayer of the barren Hannah, when she was blessed with a child.)
  • 54 He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
    • Ps 98:3 He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel: all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
  • 55a As he spake to our fathers,
    • Ps 25:6 Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.
    • Ps 98:3 He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel.
    • Ps 105:8-11 He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac. He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant: “To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit.”
    • Ps 136Aff. His love [mercy] endures forever.
  • 55b to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
    • Gen 12:2-3 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
    • Ps 147:19 He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel.
    • Mic 7:20 You will be true to Jacob, and show mercy to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our fathers in days long ago.
    • Sirach 44:19-22 Abraham was a great father of many people: in glory was there none like unto him; Who kept the law of the most High, and was in covenant with him: he established the covenant in his flesh; and when he was proved, he was found faithful. Therefore he assured him by an oath, that he would bless the nations in his seed, and that he would multiply him as the dust of the earth, and exalt his seed as the stars, and cause them to inherit from sea to sea, and from the river unto the utmost part of the land. With Isaac did he establish likewise for Abraham his father’s sake the blessing of all men, and the covenant, And made it rest upon the head of Jacob. He acknowledged him in his blessing, and gave him an heritage, and divided his portions; among the twelve tribes did he part them.

[1] The cross-references for the Magnificat come from a number of sources. The versification is from an essay by Curtis A. Jahn. (Jahn 1997, 14-15)


Jahn, C. A. (1997). Exegesis and Sermon Study of Luke 1:46-55 The Magnificat. Mequon: Wisconson Lutheran Seminary. Retrieved October 15, 1008, from