Beloved brothers and sisters,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
A PRAYER OF THE FIRST HOUR OF THE NIGHT
O Lord Our God, the Father of the True Light, who has adorned the day with the heavenly light and has gladdened the day with the sparks of fire, Who has prepared the repose of the age to come for those who love You, the Spiritual and unceasing Light; illumine our hearts with the knowledge of Your Truth and keep our life unhindered, granting us that we may walk becomingly as in the day, and glorify in deed and word Your All-Holy Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
INTRODUCTION OF APOCALYPSE (REVELATION)
by Father Athanasios Mitilinaios
There is no other book like the Apocalypse (Revelation) in the history of humanity that has as many commentaries, writings, and references as this book. A great number of books have been written, are being written, and will be written about the book of Revelation. It is a great treasure, a book of great depth that awakens people's conscience! It amazes people with its wonderful imagery and scenery. The main scene is Heaven and Earth. Its place of reference is the entire Universe. Its time frame is not limited to the Earth's history, but moves beyond to the universal history and eternity. This is why we would be making an interpretive mistake if we would wish to interpret the book of Revelation based on a certain topography, a certain geography such as the United States, or Greece, or Constantinople. Many of you who have studied apocalyptic literature will know exactly what I am talking about. The tendency is to want to interpret events of this book in the narrow space of New York or Iraq or Constantinople or in the limited space of the country of Greece. The book of Revelation is not just for the Greeks, or the Americans. It is a universal book, as we mentioned--its stage is Heaven and earth. Its period is the history of the universe and eternity.
Accordingly, as Greeks, let us not try to limit it to our national dreams and aspirations! It is very poor to try to do that and this why all those who try to interpret in this narrow-minded manner have missed the mark! My friends, the claims of all those who wrote books and commentaries within these narrow boundaries were false, and they were obviously ashamed!
We need to follow the straight line of our Church. This path, my friends, was mapped out by three God-inspired people, three God-inspired Holy Fathers: Saint Andrew of Caesarea of the sixth century, who wrote a commentary; Saint Arethas, Archbishop of Caesarea, of the ninth century and Saint Ecumenios, Archbishop of Tryki of the sixth century. These serve as my guides...I urge you not to let your imagination go wild over "what's going to happen," and "what new things were about to learn." No, vigilance is required! We will learn in our long journey through the Holy Book how we are to understand this Scripture. I will certainly try to tell you something at this point--this "something" will not exhaust itself but we will continue to learn as we journey through the analysis of this book. In spite of all the things that we just mentioned, we cannot say that we do not need to look out for the signs of the times! No, we need to watch for the signs because our Lord Himself instructed us about this. He spoke to us about the signs of the end of times. He said, "As soon as the twigs of the fig tree get tender and its leaves come out you know that summer is near!" (St. Matthew 24:32). He goes on to give a number of signs in the Gospel. He tells us then you will know that the end is near. The book of Revelation is a very difficult book. The prophecy is unfathomable. It runs deep. Saint Ignatius instructs Saint Polycarp in a letter, as he was on his way to Rome to be martyred and become food for the lions, "Study the times very carefully. Anticipate the One Who is above time, the timeless One--the Invisible, but for us visible. So study, pay great attention to the times, and along the way keep expecting the One Who is above time; Jesus Christ, the Pre-Eternal Son and Logos (Word) of God. Keep expecting Him. This exhortation of Saint Ignatius is very important.
Saint Irenaeus said something excellent, "It is safer and less dangerous to await the fulfillment of a prophecy than to keep trying to guess and estimate and foretell what is about to take place." Saint Andrew of Caesarea also tells us something very important: "Time and experience will reveal to the vigilant. Time will reveal these events. Now, you will ask 'Why should we bother and where is the value if things will happen in the future? It is important for me to know in advance what this book says so I will know how to stand.'"
Specifically, let us talk about the presence of the Antichrist. When he comes, he will mesmerize the masses. He will be wise, thoughtful, a philanthropist, extremely civilized. He will be an amazing personality! He will enchant the entire world! This is what the holy Fathers say. People will boast about his governing abilities, about his wisdom. He will be a universal king. The unions that are taking place geographically one day will solidify to a great union, and then the Antichrist will come forth. It may sound strange, but is true! This is the warning that we have from the word of God. In those days, Prophets Elijah and Enoch will appear. These two Prophets did not taste death. They will serve as Prophets of the present, not the future! They will call out that this is the Antichrist, and people will be amazed. "What? He is the greatest governor this world has ever known!" No, he is the Antichrist! They prophecy the present. Those who are vigilant, with a pure heart, who live a spiritual life, will recognize him instantly! The rest of the masses will seize the prophets and hang them in the center of Jerusalem from the tallest tree! Now, when will all these things happen? When they happen! When will we know? When they are happening!
We will recognize each event at the time of its outcome. Therefore, as you see, how we approach and how we study the book of Revelation is very important. When we open the book of Revelation, we feel that we are in front of some disorder, or in front of an abyss, with no beginning and no end--an abyss of visions, depictions and images. However, in reality, there is no abyss, nothing of this sort! There is rhythm and order based on a seven-fold system. This is true throughout the entire book, which is truly amazing. It is like looking up in the sky and trying to map out in an orderly fashion six to seven thousand stars, the ones that are visible! Is this possible for us? No, it is out of the question! It is chaotic! However, it is not chaotic to the astronomer! He has mapped these stars out. He studies and he knows how to look for them.
Accordingly, the book of Revelation is not chaotic. We can easily find the beginning, the middle, and the end. However, this is the main point; we do not know how to interpret it. This is the problem! How do we interpret the book of Revelation without wanting to go off on a tangent? I must tell you that four different theories or methods of interpretation have been presented. I will mention only a few. This presents a dilemma as to which theory to use and you will see this as we proceed without interpretation. The first theory, which has been accepted by many Church Fathers, is called "cyclical" [kyklyki]). In other words, when we read the Holy Scripture, we ask of the things that are reported by the Prophet, "Are these things meant for his time, for the journey of the Church through history, or for the end of time?" In this instance, we have the progressive or eschatological method. The cyclical states this: it takes a series of visions, a circle or combination of seven events and these seven apply to the events of this time frame. The second combination of seven applies to the events of a subsequent period until we reach the end of time. The second theory is the chronological theory, which is not repetitive or cyclical, and does not refer to the seven-fold combination. It is a journey, wherein we can say; we are now at the first chapter, or if you will, at the third chapter where reference is made to the seven Churches of Asia Minor. With this method, we might say that the first three chapters refer to the time of Saint John; the chapters beyond that until the last chapter refer to the time after Saint John until the end of history. In other words, according to the chronological theory, we would say that every chapter corresponds to a piece of history.
Neither of these methods of interpretation is completely accurate. Saint Andrew of Caesaria prefers the cyclical, but he uses all the methods of interpretation. In other words, we must use a selective method. In some areas we will use the cyclical, in some areas the chronological, and in some the eschatological. I hope I did not succeed in confusing all of you. However, you must understand that it is difficult to grasp all of this. Again, some holy Fathers use a combination of these methods and this combination is called the "spiral" method. To understand this, let us say that I am ready to climb a round mountain on an uphill winding road. After climbing a huge circle, I find myself a little higher, one more circle, and I am even higher and as I get up higher the mountain, the circles become smaller. Subsequently, here I have the combination of the circular and the straight--I start at the base and I end up at the top. So, a prophecy can begin at the beginning--when the Apocalypse (Revelation) was first written--and this prophecy can actually continue until the end of times, until the Second Coming of Christ. Consequently, as we see here I have the cyclical interpretation, but I also have the straight line which progresses to the top. We call this combination the spiral interpretation.
The word of God is deep and difficult to interpret. To gain understanding, one needs to have humility, prayer, attention, tears and persistence. Let us use the example of Saint John the Evangelist, where he says, "I heard a voice, 'No one can open this scroll,' and I started to cry, because no one could learn about the contents of this book" (Rev. 5:1-4). The Angel who was guiding him came and told him, "Do not weep, the book was opened by the Morning Star, the Son of God, the Incarnate Logos (Word) of God, Jesus Christ. So don't weep." Why did he open the book?--Because Saint John was weeping!
Something that we need to be careful of; every conclusion which we will draw from this book (Revelation)--whether ethical, moral or spiritual--we should not use to instruct others. Let us apply these points to ourselves first! When Christ will say, "You are not cold or hot, you are lukewarm! This is why I will spit you out of My mouth!" Let us not say that He will spit out or throw up the others! No, we need to analyze and criticize our souls, ourselves first. I must question myself, "Am I lukewarm? Maybe I am!" and then I will discover, if I have any sincerity, that yes, I am lukewarm and Christ is talking to me!
My friends, this is how we will be able to gain some understanding from the book of Revelation so its truth can be revealed to us, at least as much as is humanly possible! In this way, we can walk this golden and bright journey of our Church in the face of the blood-shedding and life-killing swords of the godless powers all throughout history.
With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God