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Posted April 12, 2013 in Lent and Easter, and in Word Made Flesh:
Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand
by Fr. Pat McNulty.

See how much difference it makes when the Book of Revelation is read in some kind of recognizable context.

No, the Book of Revelation never made any sense to me either way, in or out of any kind of context. It’s all about that scary stuff about the End Times, all those weird-colored horses, big dragons waitin’ to eat babies, and creatures covered all over with eyes an’ wings. It’s too spooky for me.

Well, take a new look at it during the Easter Season this year. On the 3rd 4th and 5th Sundays after Easter the second reading is from the Book of Revelation and, in the context of the Resurrection, it is a perfect choice.

Maybe it is for you, Reverend, but not for me.

Well, how about you put in your own words what you imagine was going on in heaven when Jesus rose from the dead.

I don’t know, I wasn’t there; but I imagine it musta been wild.

Wild? That’s a tame word for what the Spirit implies on these Sundays of Easter. How about ten thousand times ten thousand angels crying out in a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom and glory and honor and blessing (Rev 4:11).

That Lamb is the risen Christ, my friend, and that passage from Revelation is just a preview of how big the Life, Death, and Resurrection of the incarnate Son of God really is!

Maybe so, but there’s still all that smoke an’ that abyss and them monsters with seven heads and twenty eyes an’ thirty horns. Nobody I know wants to hear that weird stuff.

Wait a minute: stop and think about what you just said, "Nobody I know wants to hear that weird stuff."

Think about the modern movie epics, like the one about lords and rings and strange "hobbit" creatures. The Lord of the Rings was a box office hit. There it is: smoke, fire, abyss, folk with funny heads and eyes, and people can’t get enough of it. So tell me, what do you think that "weird stuff" is all about?

Good entertainment, I guess.

No, it’s much more than that if the authors and film-makers are serious about their work. They are making use of "strange" images to stir up something in our minds and hearts for which there are really no words. (And, PS, it is not something to fool around with just for "entertainment.")

But this is precisely what the Book of Revelation does: It uses strange images to stir up in our hearts and minds things for which there are no words.

From way back in the time of the prophet Daniel, 600 years before Christ, the Spirit has been using these "strange" images (we call them apocalyptic) to pull back the curtain on the mysteries of salvation which culminate in the life, death, resurrection and Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

And now, having reached the Easter-moment of Resurrection in our liturgical life, this fantastic book has a perfect and proper place for us.

Maybe so, Reverend, but I never really got past the first couple-a chapters when it came to readin’ it what with them voices like trumpets, churches whose names you can hardly pronounce, a man with snow white hair, eyes like hot coals, feet like bronze, and a voice louder than the ocean.

Well, maybe you’re looking at it with the wrong eyes. Maybe what the Spirit is trying to tell us through these images is that what we need first of all in our life of faith is a profound sense of something that is not confined by the boundaries of our puny minds and matter, of science and technological manipulation.

Maybe the Book of Revelation is meant to convince us that this whole "Gospel thing" is, in fact, a profound heavenly event beyond what we can possibly imagine, one we can’t enter into until we are somehow stunned by the magnitude of it all. In a word: silenced before a mystery.

But our religion’s more about a personal relationship with Jesus, Reverend. If you make it into mystery, it won’t be real and you’re gonna scare people away.

That’s because many of us have tried to re-design the concept of mystery to fit our own perverted sense of entertainment or technology. But genuine mystery is "bigger" and better than all of that.

Give me an example!

We already had one: all those angels and the risen Lamb that was slain. But OK, open your Bible to Chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation.

Just a minute. Ah-h-h-h-h… Chapter 12? You mean this one about the woman givin’ birth to a baby and a huge dragon sittin’ there waitin’ to eat it up? You don’t call that scary?

Not really, if, like I do, you believe that in this book the Spirit is also unveiling something of the immensity, the mystery, of what was going on, though hidden behind the Gospel-scenes in the life of Christ as well, things which begin with his miraculous conception and "the woman" and continue throughout his whole life unto his resurrection and ascension, things which are still very much outside our verbal capacity to express or fully understand even though we sometimes act as if we can.

So I think the Spirit blesses us with images of cosmic proportions to give us just a little taste for the immensity of it all, a little hint of what might have been really going on but hidden behind those simple events and miracles in Jesus’ life on earth.

And if we develop that same sense of mystery which the Spirit gives us in this book, then when we read the Gospels or hear them read, suddenly everything is "painted" in these cosmic colors. What seemed so scary, spooky, or shocking, becomes part of a profound heavenly mystery.

And then faith is about hope, about the ultimate defeat of all Evil, about a new and mysterious life beyond anything we can imagine, even with our space telescopes and our tricky technology, a life which this "strange" book tells us will be a whole new creation coming down out of heaven as beautiful as a bride all dressed for her husband. (Chapter 21.)

Interesting, Reverend. But I can’t imagine myself gettin’ that much out of this book on my own. I’d have to go to Bible school like you did and I don’t have the time or the money right now.

Yeah, I must admit that without some help this book does lend itself to all sorts of biblical and theological abuse, but I never went to school on this one, my friend. I never even liked this book or read it until I lived in the desert for a while. (I won’t bore you with that story again.)

And even then, I could only read it if I stopped thinking about its meaning or how to interpret any of that "scary stuff" like the Abyss and the End Times.

I could only read it because it was part of Divine Revelation, period. But the real secret about this book for me was, I read it out loud.

I read it as I imagined that the Spirit gave it: filled with wonderful mysterious drama and all the "spooky" images. (Ou-u-u-u-u-u-!) And though I still don’t understand much of the imagery in the book, nevertheless, when I read it out loud, it "fills in" the Gospels for me in a mysterious way I never imagined before.

I can’t explain it, but this book has become for me one of the most delightful books in all the Bible, yet very simple and very profound. And PS, "simple" and "profound" is, I think, how the Spirit reveals genuine mystery to us, and not by "horror" and "scary."

I never heard anything like this about this book, Reverend. I don’t know what to say.

Well, how ‘bout we just read a bit—out loud—and see what happens. You start with this passage…

Ah-h-h-h-h, ….an immense number of angels… ten thousand times ten thousand…."

No. No. No. Get into it, friend! Read it like the Spirit meant it, like it’s so big you can hardly say it, "an immense number of angels, ten thousand times ten thousand of them… and…."

Excuse me, Reverend! I need to make a phone call.

"…and thousands upon thousands shouting… the Lamb that was slain is worthy to receive…"

Hi, Honey! I’m gonna be late, so go ahead an’ eat. The Reverend’s in one of his moods, and this is one even I don’t wanna miss!

"…to receive power and riches and wisdom and blessing. Then I heard all living things in creation…."

 

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