Breaking Open the Word: Revelation Ch. 1

Limbourg brothers [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Limbourg brothers [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, August 19th: Revelation Ch. 1

               Today we shared our study and reflection on the Book of Revelation, Chapter one.  After all, where better to begin a Scripture study than at the very end of the Bible?  It was interesting to see the different “angle” each Sister was inspired to take in her personal reflections, and we were all enriched by hearing each other’s unique perspectives.

               One of the first points mentioned was from Dr. Scott Hahn’s study on Revelation (The End).  Dr. Hahn focuses on the Greek word “apokalypsis” (revelation/apocalypse) that appears in the first verse of the book.  According to Dr. Hahn, though today we typically associate this word with prophecies and visions, in the first century it also had another connotation: in a Jewish wedding, the “apokalypsis” was the “unveiling” of the bride! This, of course, ties in beautifully with the theme all throughout Revelation of the “wedding of the Lamb” – at the end of time, Christ’s Bride, the Church, will be “unveiled” and appear before Him “without spot or wrinkle.”

Martys = Witness

               One Sister was struck by the repeated use of the words “witness” and “testimony,” wondering if they were all the same word in Greek. But why stop there, if you have a Greek New Testament handy in the monastery library? Sister shared with us that her hypothesis had been correct – all the words were different forms of the Greek “martys-martyros” (witness), from which we derive our English word “martyr.” What inspired this particular Sister, however, was the fact that St. John says he was imprisoned “for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Not his own testimony about Jesus, but the testimony that Jesus Himself bore to the Father!  He is the first and the greatest Witness, from Whom all witness takes its being. She also noted that, though our English translation refers to Jesus as “the faithful witness” (Rev. 1:5), the Greek reads, “Jesus, the witness, the faithful one,” possibly to put distinct emphasis on His witness itself.

               Another Sister described how she found it helpful to focus on the “big picture” of the whole book of Revelation: “Christ HAS conquered, He IS conquering, and He WILL conquer!”  We discussed the contrast between the seemingly mundane realities of Christian life on earth and the cosmic battle between God and Satan that rages just beyond our perception; however different these two “worlds” may seem, one Sister pointed out, they are mysteriously one and the same thing! The book of Revelation shows, in a way, the “Divine perspective” on human life that we so often miss. We are in a war for souls, and our “weapon” is the liturgy!

               This led to another discussion on verse 7: “See, He comes amid the clouds!” While this is an obvious allusion to the prophecy of Daniel, it can also describe how the “clouds” of everyday experience can obscure for us on earth the reality of Jesus’ presence in all times and places. When a Sister wondered aloud if this verse could be connected to the “cloud of witnesses” mentioned in the letter to the Hebrews, we came to see that the human witness of the Saints of every age is in fact one of the chief ways that the divinity of Christ is visible on earth!

               We hope reading some of our reflections and insights on the first chapter of Revelation has inspired you to a greater interest in this exciting book of Scripture; we hope you’ll join us next time, when we discuss the Letter to the Church of Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7)!