Monday, March 21, 2011

Quiet day today

I think the weekend in Naples caught up to me today. I was studying the map of Naples earlier today and I figure I walked about 10 miles in 2 days.

I concelebrated the Mass here at the seminary. The stational church today was San Clemente which I had toured extensively last week. After Mass, we had class with Fr, Donal McIlraith, a Columban Father who is an expert in the Book of Revelation. It was all very techinical scriptural study but I did my best to stay alert. I had hoped to get more practical information about "the apocalypse" which the Book of Revelation is sometimes called.

Fr. McIlraith offered 5 keys to understanding the book.

The structure: The entire book must be understood in the context of a liturgy. The early church already had a well structured and celebrated liturgy by the end of the 1st century. The liturgy was at the center of the life of the church. We also have to remember that the vicious persecution of the church had already begun and has lasted 30 years already when Revelation was written.

And so the Book of Revelation begins with a Prologue.
a. 1:1-3. John asserts that this is a revelation to him. God has shown him the truth and he is testifying to the truth. It recalls the beginning of John's Gospel, and the Baptist who also testifies to the truth of the messiah.
b. Part 1. Revelation 1:4 - 3:22. Letters to the 7 churches and Johns vision.
    Part 2. Revelation 4:1-22:5. The Risen Christ, described as the lamb, the Lord of History. Introduction of the image of the throne and the lamb. The imagery of the 7 Seals, 7 trumpets, 3 signs, 7 bowls. The image of the unfaithful Babylon and the fidelity of the New Jerusalem.
c. Epilogue: A concluding Liturgy.

2. The Old Testament: While there are no direct quotes, there are hundreds of allusions to the Old Testament. The New Testament is hidden in the Old Testament; the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament.

3. Symbols: 7 golden lampstands, Throne of God, Lamb, the clear Golden City, animals, color, numbers, cosmic images.

4. Historical and Geographic facts. Alexander the Great, The Roman Empire, The emperor Domitian, 96AD, under whom the fiercest perscutions took place.

5. Apocalyptic/Prophetic Literature pointing to the end times and eternal life: The apocalyptic movement lasted from 200BC to 100AD. Old Testament includes Book of Daniel, Enoch, who speak of visions using symbols often explained by angels to humans.

In the Book of Revelation, there is emphasis on the image of the lamb led to slaughter, but the lamb is represented as standing, therefore a symbol of the resurrection.

Jesus is also referred to as: Christ, Lord, Lion, King of Kings, Faithful Witness, One Loving Us, Like the Son of Man, Truth, Holy One, Living One, First and the Last, Alpha and Omega, Bright Morning Star, etc.

The symbol of Marriage is central in Revelation. In Jewish matrimonial customs, it was the husband's resposibility to prepare the wedding banquet, the house. This took place during the betrothal period in which the marriage was arranged between the families. At this time, the couple was legally married. After a year waiting period during which the husband made all the preparations, the bride prepared herself to be received into the husbands home. During the wedding banquet that could laset 7 days, the marriage is consummated.

In Revelation, the husband is Christ, who through his ministry, life, death, and resurrection prepares a home in heaven for the bride, the church. The church is the bride preparing herself to be received into the husbands home by her persecutions, her ministry, and witness to love of the husband. It is at liturgy that the union takes place; when the bride becomes the wife, and bridegroom becomes the husband. And so for the early christians, as for us today, the celebration of the Eucharist becomes the once and for all union between Christ, the bridegroom and the bride, the Church. All this is in preparation for the eternal wedding banquet of the Lamb forever.

To use the book of revelation to attempt to predict events, or to explain past events, natural or man-made is to miss the whole point. It is poor biblical scholarship. The book of Revelation allows the christians who heard it to make symbolic connections with their own time and to be reassured that their witness will lead them to the eternal banquet of the Lamb.

There are thousands of books on this topic. I fear that I cannot offer anything that resembles a complete treatment of this amazing and complex book. Maybe this is an opportunity for us to reflect when I get back, on the beautiful meaning of the symbol language which moved a persecuted church closer to the glory prepared for her by her Lord.

The rest of the day was slow. I took my siesta for real. I slept soundly for two hours in the afternoon. I woke in time for our Holy Land Orientation meeting, followed by supper.

At supper, tonight I sat with the Bishop of Fairbanks Alaska, Most Rev. Donald Kettler. He is a friend of Msgr. Wensing, the director of the institute. The bishop is joining us on the Holy Land Pilgrimage. He told us about his diocese which has 45 parishes, and is twice the size of Texas. There are parishes which might celebreate the Mass once a month. 12 of the parishes have churches and rectories in communities with no running water or electricity.

Tonight, all is quiet here. I took the opportunity to blog tonight, answer some emails and letters, and hopefully get an early night sleep. I would like to get to the station church tomorrow morning.

Thanks everyone for reading
Good Night.