Posted by: jevcat | November 24, 2017

Revelation Wrestling

It’s that time in the Daily Lectionary Year One I hate:  the end of the Pentecost, when we have been slogging through the long march through Revelation.  The late Edward N. West, Canon of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, is reported to have said the only way to read Revelation is loudly, and as rapidly as possible. I question whether even that helps – all that angry, hallucinatory imagery.  I grew up in the 60s, but I missed the mind-altering substances part and just absorbed the peace and love thing.

I mean, all those lampstands and the odd, angry being behind them – I’d much rather Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast, thank you very much.  And I have to confess, much as I like St. Michael, I have always been rather fond of dragons, too, though of course, there’s good and bad in every group.

I just cannot believe that the same St. John who wrote the gospel and the Johannine epistles wrote Revelation, and it’s something of a comfort to know many scholars think that, too.  How could the person who wrote those wonderful, beautiful words about love and its essential importance, who taught us that God is love, produce such a relentless catalogue of misery and wrath and punishment – and seem to take such great delight in it?  Where is the God of mercy and love?  I hate the violence and fury of Revelation, it’s celebration of revenge, and I do not recognize its god.

And yet, and yet, there are glimmers. . . Rossini’s comment about Wagner having some wonderful moments and some awful quarter hours could apply equally to Revelation.  The last chapters, especially, have beautiful passages:  the vision of the new creation, of all being renewed, in Chapter 21, and its message that God is/will be dwelling among us, every tear will be wiped away.  And, almost at the very end, the wonderful, incantatory, almost hypnotic invitation of Chapter 22:

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”

And let everyone who hears say, “Come.

And let everyone who is thirsty come.

Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

So what are we to make of this?  That human beings are contradictory creatures?  Certainly.  But, in the end, all are invited, all are welcomed?  I don’t know, but I hope so.


Ghent Altarpiece by the Van Eyck Brothers,



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