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

30 November 2012

Apocalypse Now!

The word “Advent” means “coming, arrival.”  God the Son first manifested Himself in human flesh, as the “just shoot” promised long ago to God’s holy people.  In the same moment we acknowledge the consummate administration of divine justice at the end of days.  Jeremiah’s talk of safety and security comes to us alongside Jesus’ predictions of nations in dismay, roaring seas, and death-inducing fright.

What gives?  

Saint Luke has recorded Jesus in the register of “apocalyptic,” which we know best from the Book of the Apocalypse (Revelation), but it is also found in several Gospel passages, and Hebrew prophets such as Daniel, Joel, and Zechariah.  Apocalyptic is a writing style marked by vivid, sensational imagery well suited for sci-fi or horror flicks.  It usually contains coded language that unintended, "enemy" audiences wouldn’t be able to decipher.  

But apocalyptic is meant to be more than a good summer beach novel.  Its original audience wasn’t on holiday; it was being persecuted!  They appreciated divine encouragement.  They also needed exhortations to fidelity amid temptations to desertion.  Above all, God wanted them to know that their steadfastness was not futile.  Their enemies were doomed to the very destruction they were seeking to inflict.  For example: Daniel wrote to reassure the Jews who were suffering the madness of the Syrian king, Antiochus Epiphanes.  Saint John’s visions assured the early Christians under Rome’s thumb that they would survive that “evil empire,” and many others besides.

Apocalyptic literature is all about “getting sober,” that is to say, acquiring the divine perspective on human affairs.  Hear again Our Lord’s words in Luke: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day [of the Lord’s coming] catch you by surprise like a trap.”  

The necessary virtue is vigilance: staying in the present moment, staying out of the drama of the end-times (and, for that matter, the drama of the current times).  As news and commentary assault us from all sides, it is easy to be caught in the riptide of obsessive anger and fear.  There is too much to do; there are too many real subjects of concern that merit our attention—not so much tasks as persons.

Save the drama for this llama

So enough with Powerball’s material madness: If we would have it, this Advent can be the chance of a lifetime, to focus on Christ with a peaceful heart so that everything else might fall into place.