For the next two weeks we will read from the final book of the Christian Scriptures, Revelation, sometimes called “The Apocalypse.” As I mentioned yesterday, there are two things to keep in mind as we read apocalyptic literature. First, all apocalyptic literature springs out of difficulties, turmoil, persecutions, or distress which is currently being experienced by the author and the people for whom he is writing. Second, this type of literature is to remind us that such distress is not limited to our own experience but has happened and will happen again in the future.
In this particular apocalyptic book, it also helps to remember that the author, a man named John, is writing of an experience which is commonly called “an altered state of consciousness.” He is reporting what he has seen in a vision or in a dream. While most of the people of the world understand the “dream state” or the “out of body” experience, it is a foreign concept to people of the Western World. We tend not to put too much stock in dreams and visions. Other cultures, in particular the Middle Eastern culture, are far more accepting of such experiences.
When it comes to the various images and figures that the writer says that he sees in the sky, it is helpful to remember the various constellations, groups of stars that have been part of our culture for centuries. Mariners steered their ships by the stars. The various figures of Greek and Roman mythology, the signs of the Zodiac, etc. are all part of the night sky for astronomers. It is quite obvious that the sacred writer is such an astrologer.
With these ideas in mind, we read the Book of Revelation as it was intended. It begins as a letter to the various Christian communities of the Middle East, some of which are familiar to us. Today’s reading mentions the community of Ephesus and commends the people of Ephesus for their endurance under trial while at the same time chiding them for failing in the virtue of love. That message can readily be applied to us as well. We would not be here this morning if we were not keeping the faith, but we all need to grow in charity. When we stand before our God, we will realize how much God loves us and how poorly we have loved in return.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator