Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

18 November 2012

A Time Unsurpassed In Distress

The readings toward the end of Ordinary Time take on an apocalytic tone.  This happens in each of the three Sunday cycles of readings, and has nothing to do with the end of the Mayan calendar, the twenty-first of December 2012.  Apocalypse means "unveiling," as it combines the Greek preposition apo (away from) and verb kalyptein (to cover, conceal).  One online dictionary entry offers several synonyms based on various meanings of "apocalyptic": prophetic, terrible, grandiose, and climactic.

Jesus' instruction to the disciples (Mk 13:24-32) unveils things to come: what will happen to the sun, moon, and stars; what the Son of Man will do; what His words will not do, though all else may.  The described events certainly sound grandiose and climactic.  It is not all distress, however, as the Son of Man intends to "gather his elect"--who, by my reading, do not escape any of the tribulations Jesus describes.

The apocalyptic style of biblical literature also occurs in Daniel.  He foretells the coming of the Archangel ("great prince" and "guardian") Michael.  He brings dread or delight, depending on one's disposition to the divine, which is revealed by the presence of one's name in "the book" (Dn 12:1).  This concept finds contemporary expression in the "Book of the Elect," which is signed by adults beginning their proximate preparation for Baptism.

The peculiar imagery and startling statements of apocalyptic literature are the subject of many writings and sermons.  Scholars and preachers attempt to decode the Book of Revelation or somehow apply it to our times.  Like many inspired texts, it has been used to justify all sorts of positions.  According to a classical Protestant interpretation, the "Whore of Babylon" (Rev 17) allegedly refers to the Roman Catholic Church.  The "number of the beast" in Rev 13 has been the subject of Hebrew numerological studies.

Along the lines of Catholic theologians such as Scott Hahn (and works like "The Lamb's Supper"), Your Rev'd Blogger prefers to view Revelation and related texts against the pervasive biblical theme of covenant, which finds its highest expression in the Eucharist.  Consider 3:20 ("Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me"), which has Eucharistic overtones.  Also 19:9 ("Blessed are those who are called to the wedding feast of the Lamb," inspiration for the book title above).

Apocalyptic texts were written for the persecuted faithful, to assure the rewards of fidelity and the just desserts of desertion.  For all of the arcane allusions of Revelation, I consider Rev 2:10 to be the lynchpin for the whole work:

"Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life."

Handle's Messiah
The intense political polarization and inter/intra-ecclesial contention of our age masterfully plays to the notion that things haven't ever been so bad and can't possibly get any worse.  The days of darkness just have to be right around the corner.  Earthquakes, floods, the death of Twinkies, even the name change of the Reading Phillies: Everything points to it...right?  Veni, et iam noli tardare!  

This longing will never cease.  It ought not cease, because one day it will come to pass.  If everyone in this snapshot of earth predeceases the Day of the Lord, recall that everyone in the 1733 snapshot likewise died, as well as the 1352, 844, 212, and 33 snapshots; but the Lord still holds out for His Elect.  The book hasn't closed, and thank Him for that!  Spaces for signatures will remain as long as the One perfect sacrifice for sins continues to be offered on our altars, and as long as the City of God continues to be frequented.

Two thousand year old texts remain relevant: we are always awaiting the consummation of all things, and we will always profit from a renewed commitment to the Big 4: sound doctrine, vibrant liturgy, generous morality, and honest prayer.

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