By Fr Patrick Henry Reardon
The Book of Revelation is a work more often misinterpreted than correctly understood. Unless a person is extraordinarily familiar with all the rest of Holy Scripture, understanding very much of it will be an extremely arduous task. Since the book’s arcane symbolism is so rich and subtle, Christian humility will especially prompt the devout reader to be more than usually careful and tentative in his study of it, bearing in mind that the book’s purpose is not to satisfy our curiosity about the final times (inasmuch as not even the angels in heaven—and therefore certainly no one on earth—truly know the day and hour, as our Lord insisted in the Gospels) but to summon our ongoing repentance.
Fr Patrick Henry Reardon argues that the Book of Revelation is “liturgical prophecy.” Like the prophets of old, it is not a work of theological abstraction, but grounded in particular historical realities: it is only timeless by being timely. Revelation conveys the call to repentance in all times with equal immediacy. Likewise, the Apocalypse is liturgical. The vision begins during the Sunday liturgy, and it conveys the profound meaning of Christian worship. When Christians gather together in the liturgy, they do not escape from the painful history of the world. On the contrary, they go to the very source of that history, the eternal throne of God. Surrounded by the seeming chaos of the world and the events of men, threatened by social and political forces dominated by the direction of hell, Christians are strengthened by John’s vision of their worship being assumed into the very worship that takes place before God’s throne.