Tuesday, April 19, 2011

And the prince of darkness will arise in the West.

The quote above, more of an imaginary allusion, came to mind after reading the news today. A couple of days ago I'd had  a discussion about Holy Week customs in various rites and uses but what struck me was the special way Holy Scripture tends to be used in big chunks at this time of year. The starting point was a friend who observed that one particular group he knew read the whole of Apocalypse in one sitting during their Easter Ceremonies hence my 'imaginary allusion'. I know of other groups that will use Holy Scripture in more intense ways than would be usual. In the Catholic Tradition, of course, we get all Four Passion narratives in their entirety. St Matthew on Sunday, St Mark today, St Luke tomorrow, and St John on Friday.

But back to the Apocalypse. I prefer it's Greek title because it seems to avoid an open invitation to make the revelations within it stand on their own. It was a revelation to St John but one which was left largely not interpreted over the years. In some of the Eastern Churches it's actually not read publicly for fear of causing confusion. In the Latin rite it is there but it's use is quite reserved to particular poetic moments. This is not to belittle it's value within the Canon but rather it stands in a very difficult place of being very hard to understand. The history of Post 16th century Christianity is littered with failed attempts to make it's prophecies fit with contemporary events.

So when we are tempted to see doom and gloom in the future, and I've just walked past some old fashioned apocalyptic preachers in the street, when we are particularly tempted to see an event as an omen of the end of all times, when something happens in the Church we just cannot fathom, we need to grab hold of the balance that the Catholic Church gives too all of these things tempering them with the promises of Heaven and of eternal life. Promises made possible by the sacrifice that we celebrate in these days.


  1. Only recently was I made aware that the Apoclaypse makes sense readin in light of the Mass.

  2. Predictions of doom and ‘the end times’ have become so common as to be fodder for cartoons. In fact it has become an industry in some places and religions have been founded based upon it. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised as it has a long history – even some of the Apostles initially thought they would see it in their lifetime. I suspect that the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. was seen by many at the time as apocalyptic.

    The climatic events of recent years help feed this and there’s always some group heading up a mountain somewhere to await ’the end’. But rather than trying to make predictions or foretell future events, we should be conscious of the fragility of this life. Whatever the future implications of natural disasters – or man-made ones, for that matter – one thing is certain: they represent the end of this life for many people. One hopes they were spiritually prepared. But, were they?

    Here in the US we joke that only two things are certain: death and taxes. A recent report stated that about half the population pays no taxes at all, so perhaps our certainty is off by one. However, there’s no doubt about the other one. Death is certain. But we know that He has overcome it – and that is our hope.


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