My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
INTRODUCTION TO THE APOCALYPSE (Revelation)
by +Father Athanasios Mitilinaios
By the grace of our Triune God, we have made it once again to the month of October, the month when most of us get busy. We prepare for winter and our farmers prepare the fields to plant. As our farmers go out to their fields to plant their wheat, in the same manner it is necessary for the word of God to come forth and be planted. According to the Gospel of St. Luke, "A sower went out to sow his seed" (Luke 8:5-15). The word of God comes forth not to till or cultivate, but 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, perceive it, and how it affects our 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'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 told you, how we hear the word of God depends on us. During this series of homilies, we will come to hear the word of God.
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. One comes and hears the word of God but he is not moved at all. The word of God also falls on fickle hearts, those that becomes easily enthused. They feel inner joy for the word of God, but when they step out the door, they forget everything. Other sees 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 fertile soil so that 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, sixty-fold and one hundred-fold (cf. Matt. 13:8-23; Mark 4:8-20). Once again, I hope and pray that there is not one 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 (Apocalypse). It is the last book of the New Testament; it forms the conclusion of all of the Holy Scripture and it corresponds considerably to the first book of Genesis. These two books form an axis of the fall and salvation. Now, if the book of Genesis refers to the history of man's fall, the book of the Revelation refers to the history of man's restoration and salvation. In the book of Genesis, we have the description 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 near to God, to unite with Him and be deified 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 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 (Apocalypse) 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 plan, of divine economia, in the form of a summary: from the Incarnation of the Logos/Word of God until the Second Coming of Christ, 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 (12) 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! When the child was born, the woman was led into the desert, and the beast, forming a river by spewing water out of his mouth, ran behind her 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 Incarnation.
The devil, according to one of our Church Holy Fathers, was searching out the virgins seven from Old Testament times 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 (cf. John 12:31, 14:30). 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 the 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 or two applications: the Theotokos and the Church. One application is certainly the Church because the Church is the Body of Christ, the body Christ received from the Theotokos, the Panagia. Consequently, the Theotokos and the Church is the same thing, with two different 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 is 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. Since the devil cannot go to heaven, 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 permeates 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. It refers to 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 and against the unbelieving world. The Church is triumphant. Christ comes and judges the world, the devil is bound, and the Kingdom of God arrives in glowing splendor! This is the general diagram of the book of the Revelation.
(To be continued)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God