Beloved brothers and sisters,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
THE THIRD PRAYER OF ORTHROS [MATINS]
From the early morning watch, O God, our spirit rises to You, For Your Commandments are for us as the Light of Life. Teach us, O God, Your Righteousness, Your Commandments, and Your Judgments. Enlighten the eyes of our mind, that we may never slumber in sinfulness unto death. Cast out every darkness from our heart, And grant to us the Sun of Righteousness. Keep our life safe from evil influence and preserve in it the seal of the Holy Spirit. Guide our steps on the road of peace. Give us this dawn and this day to raise up our morning prayers in gladness to You. For yours is the Dominion, and Yours is the Kingdom, and the power and the Glory, Of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
INTRODUCTION OF APOCALYPSE (REVELATION)
by Father Athanasios Mitilinaios
This describes the state of expectation, characteristic of both the book and the Church. The Church is expecting Christ; it awaits Him as Judge and as King to put away all evil--to expel the devil so sin will cease to exist, so corruption and decay will cease to exist, so death will cease to exist. The central idea of the book is Jesus Christ, the Second Coming of Christ, Christ coming back as Judge and King. We will also notice, as we progress, the repeated usage of a seven-fold system. This will be more obvious during the analysis of the book. Again, the central theme is the battle between the Kingdom of God and the God-opposing power, with the resulting triumph of the Church of Christ. The purpose of the book of Revelation is both the preparation of the faithful to face the tribulation that awaits them, and the consolation and strengthening of the faithful that they might fight the good fight up to the end. All these things that I am referring to in a few words are recorded in the book of Revelation is primarily a prophetic book. However, prophecy does not only reveal future events, but the present as well! Thus, we have here prophecy in its broad sense. Our Lord Himself instructs Saint John, "Now write what you see, what is and what is to take place hereafter" (1:19).
According to our Holy Tradition, Saint John was exiled to the island of Patmos in Greece, the cave of the Apocalypse (Revelation). The cave is still there today. Saint John used to pray there incessantly. According to Holy Tradition, on a certain Sunday--as he will tell us in the beginning of the book--he was in the Spirit and he saw these revelations and visions which he recorded following the command of Christ, "Now write what you see, what is and what is to take place hereafter" (1:19). From this we see that the book of Revelation is prophetic. We mentioned that prophecy in its broad sense is not limited to the future, but may contain or include the future, present and even the past. We will explain. When a prophecy pertains to the future, it comes to reveal something that will take place in the future and which is unknown to every created being. The future is not known to any man or angel, or even to the devil! In reality, the future is known to God and to no one else! Therefore, prophecy is a privilege of our true Orthodox Faith. The prophecy can also pertain to the present--to whatever thing or even escapes the attention of the people at that time. For example, when Saint John the Baptist is called a prophet, what do you think; did he prophesy the future? No! Saint John the Baptist prophesied the present! He did not prophesy the future, nor did he prophesy the past. Saint John the Baptist prophesied the present only, and the nucleus of his prophecy was, "Here is the Messiah! Here is the Lamb of God!" The leaders of the people asked him, "Who are you? Are you the Messiah?" No, I am not the Messiah! I am the voice of the one calling and crying out in the wilderness! I am here to witness for the Messiah. The One Who has been before me time-wise, is now in front of me! The One Who is more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie!" (St. John 1:23). Saint John is prophesying about Christ, but Christ is already present! Saint John the Baptist is a great prophet, but he is only prophesying the present We must add that it is more difficult to prophesy the present than to prophesy the future.
Finally, a prophecy also pertains to the past if it prophesies those things that human eye has not seen. When Moses, for instance, records in the book of Genesis the creation of man and the world, how does he know these things? He is writing prophetically! Therefore, he is a prophet referring to the past. To add another dimension to the meaning of prophecy which we set forth above, prophecy has the element of teaching. It comes to advise--to move people towards straight paths and repentance, to bring consolation and encouragement to those who are fighting the hard fight of the spiritual life, and so on. Many times the prophets come to strengthen and help people and move them towards repentance, and to elevate those who listen to them. So prophecy does not limit itself to what happened and what will happen, but also comes to teach God's people how they must walk. For this reason--I underline this-please make a mental note of this; we must not look at the book of Apocalypse (Revelation) in the narrow sense of prophecy, as a book that will reveal the future to us! Not so, my friends! The book of Revelation will take us back into the past and present as well. Our Lord said, "What is now--those things that exist now--not necessarily the symbolic images that John was seeing in the vision. No, when Saint John writes about Babylon the great prostitute (the great harlot), meaning Rome, Rome is not limited to that period of two thousand years ago. "What is now" is also valid for today, so we must not limit our interpretation to the historical facts only. Thus, "what is now" is for today and tomorrow--it refers to the present.
We need to understand that the book of Revelation transcends the past, present and future, it comes to comfort, to uplift, to restore, to warn to call out, to point out the Antichrist, and this is at all times, at all seasons, but especially at times when spiritual awareness is very low. The book of Revelation is a very graphic book, with much inexpressible grace and freshness despite some of these horrific images. This book has a freshness about it--a certain tenderness. It is a true masterpiece of the Holy Spirit, and it becomes truly delightful for the person who can catch on and see some of its wonders. It is written in the common dialects of the Hellenistic times. The scope of its literature is so interesting that foreign scholars claim that the book of Revelation employs its own grammar, and this makes it very graceful. It is not extremely rich in its vocabulary. In this, it is similar to Saint John's Gospel, which, although it has the poorest vocabulary of the four Gospels, flies in the stratosphere of theology. It is the most theological of all the Gospels. Saint John mimics the kenosis (emptying) of God the Logos (Word), who takes on the poverty of human existence. The very Logos (Word) of God became poor, and through these lowly and poor words Saint John uses, the wealth of Theology is made manifest--the wealth of the Kingdom of God. This wealth is so abundant that it runs over and beyond the meaning of the words themselves. It is something so fantastic, so amazing that only the person who familiarizes himself with this book of Revelation can discover all these elements and wonders in a way that they never exhaust themselves. Again, it is a true masterpiece. It has unity, symmetry, great rhythm, it has powerful wording despite the poverty of the words. It has wealth--wealth of color and tone. It has a great variety of topics, a certain flexibility, and a vivacity. Its charm magnetizes the person who reads and studies it.
(to be continued)
Please note: As you can clearly see, the approach to the Holy Scripture in the Orthodox Church is much, much different than of other Christian confessions. In the Orthodox Church the interpretation of the Holy Scripture is one and it is an interpretation of the Holy Church and not of individual Christians as in other Christian traditions which are outside the Church and offer simply their own individual interpretation without the guidance of the Holy Spirit which is manifested within the Orthodox Church alone. This is why that, although there is one Truth, one Church, one Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, those outside the Church invent thousands of so-called "truths" and create confusion, distortion and falsehood.
I ask you not to follow their example and become a self-appointed or self-made "theologian" because you will find yourself outside the Holy Orthodox Christian Church.
The book of Revelation (Apocalypse) is a most complex and difficult book to interpret even for theologians.
With sincere agape In Our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God