Beloved brothers and sisters,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
FROM THE OFFICE OF VESPERS [ESPERINOS]
Lord our God, You inclined the heavens and descended for the salvation of mankind. Look on Your servants and Your inheritance. For they have bowed their heads and bent their necks to you the awesome yet compassionate Judge, not looking for human help but awaiting Your mercy and in expectation of Your Redemption. Preserve them at all times and during this evening and the impending night, from every enemy, from all opposing demonic activity, from vain thoughts and evil dreams.
May the Might of Your Kingdom be Blessed and Glorified of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
INTRODUCTION OF APOCALYPSE (REVELATION)
by Father Athanasios Mitilinaios
According to the Gospel of Saint Matthew: "A sower went out to sow his seed" (13:3). The word of God comes forth not to till or cultivate, but only to sow. The preparation of the field is the responsibility of man. Now if we come to hear the word of God, how we hear it and perceive it, and how it affects out personal life, is something totally dependent on us. However, the Sower comes and sows constantly. This is the exodus of God, which is an exodus of God, which is an exodus of God's love towards His creation. God wanted to walk with His people. He did so through His Incarnation, and He continues to come to sow the word of His Divine Truth. However, as I mentioned, how we hear the word of God depends on us.
Now, the word of God at times falls on trampled and hard ground, unbroken and untilled; for this reason it leaves the ground of the heart indifferent; someone comes in and hears but he is not moved at all. The word of God also falls on fickle hearts, those that become easily enthused. They feel inner joy for the word of God, but when they step out the door, they forget everything. Other seeds fall on hearts that promise a lot, who map out a beautiful spiritual life; but one thousand and one concerns of this life come and choke the seedlings of God, and in the end these hearts remain fruitless! We pray that no one belongs to the above categories. No, my beloved, the word of God must fall on good and fertile soil so that it can bear fruit-the fruit of holiness. However, these hearts must accept the word of God with fear and humility, and in doing so they will produce thirty-fold and a hundred-fold! I hope and pray once again that there is not a single heart from the first three fruitless categories, but that all hearts prove to be of good earth. My prayer is that the word of God that falls on our hearts produces great fruit.
This year, the grace of God offers us the great opportunity to sow His word from the book of Revelation. It is the last book of both the New Testament and of the entire Holy Scriptures. This book forms the conclusion of the Holy Scripture and it corresponds considerably to the first book, the book of Genesis. These two books form the axis of the fall and salvation. Now, if the book of Genesis refers to the history of man's fall, the book of Revelation refers to the history of man's restoration and salvation. In the book of Genesis, we have the description of the creation of the world and of man. It is the beautiful twilight of the visible created world. Unfortunately, the man and woman fell into sin at the instigation of the devil, and since then, in addition to sin, both death and corruption were introduced into the world. To all appearances, God's beautiful plan-to have nature draw to God, to unite with Him and be deified (theosis) and sanctified-was negated. However, that which God creates cannot be nullified or negated. In order to renew the visible created world, God's economy brought forth the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ.
The entire world did not accept Jesus Christ and it crucified Him. Still, the plan of salvation was not negated. By His death on the Cross, Christ crushed the devil; and by His Resurrection, death and corruption were defeated. So, the Church, the Body of Christ, continues to travel through history facing much tribulation, turmoil and martyrdom from the God-opposed, God-fighting powers that continuously crucify the flesh of Christ. In the end, the Church will be victorious, triumphant, because Christ defeated the devil, the world and death! The Church sanctifies nature and leads it to the Kingdom of God. So if the book of Genesis gives us an account of the creation of man and his fall, the book of Revelation describes apocalyptically the journey of the Church, of the faithful through the history of creation, and more specifically, the rebirth, re-creation and the eternal glory of man and the visible creation. The book of Revelation, which we are introducing today, contains the entire mystery of the divine dispensation, of divine economia, in the form of a summary-from the Incarnation of the Logos (Word) of God up to the Second Coming of Christ, the Judgment Day and the appearance of the Kingdom of God.
To give you a bird's eye view I tell you this; in one scene alone in the book of the Revelation, the Mystery of Incarnation is made manifest. In Chapter Twelve we read about the woman who holds a male child. Before she gave birth, the beast was waiting for the pregnant woman to give birth so he could grab the newly born child and devour it! However, when the child was born, the woman was led into the desert, and the beast ran behind the woman spewing water from his mouth like a river to sweep her away with the flood. However, he does not reach the child because the child ascends into heaven. My friends, this is the entire history of the Incarnation. The devil, according to one of our Church Fathers, was searching out the virgins even from the Old Testament to see which one would give birth to the Messiah. However, according to Saint Ignatius of Antioch, the male child escaped the attention of the prince of this world. The devil was not informed about the Son of God's Birth from the Virgin. The devil had no clue. The devil is not omnipresent. Nor does he know everything. However, he kept a close watch. We see this very clearly in the book of Revelation, "And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth!" (Rev. 12:4).
Now the woman swept away in the torrent signifies the Theotokos, or the Church. The person of the woman here has two aspects, two applications-The Theotokos or the Church. Certainly the Church, because the Church is the body of Christ, which body Christ received from the Theotokos, the Panaghia. Consequently, the Theotokos and the Church are the same thing, with two views or aspects. So here, we have two sides of the same coin. The Church is persecuted, the disciples and the Theotokos are persecuted, but the Child was snatched up to heaven. In other words, we have the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Ascension of Christ. The devil can no longer do anything to the Child, he cannot go to Heaven; so then, he pursues the woman in the desert. He turns against the Church, day in and day out, and we can see in this scene alone the cross section of the mystery of God's Holy Economy. Scenes like this permeate the book of Revelation. So the book of Revelation refers to the establishment and the expansion of the Church of Christ; the Kingdom of God on earth, which is the Church; the unfolding of the battle between the Church (or the woman) and the beast, or the God-opposing powers. We will see what these God-opposing powers are. In the end, the plagues take place against the beast, against the unbelieving world. The Church is triumphant. Christ comes, judges the world, the devil is bound, and the Kingdom of God glows! This is the general diagram of the book of Revelation. The central theme of the book of Revelation is the Second Coming of Christ as Judge and King! The book begins and ends with the same theme. The Church-the Bride-and the Spirit who remains in the Church will say, Come Lord Jesus! and the response is, Yes, I am coming soon!
(to be continued)
With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God