A Reading from the Book of Revelation:
And I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals; and I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I wept much that no one was found
worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Weep not; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Rev 5:1-5)
From Pope Benedict XVI’s General Audience on 12 September, 2012:
What do these symbols mean? They remind us of the way to take to be able to interpret the events of history and of our own life. By raising our gaze to God’s Heaven, in a constant relationship with Christ, opening our hearts and minds to him in personal and community prayer, we learn to see things in a new light and to perceive their truest meaning. Prayer is, as it were, an open window that enables us to keep our gaze turned to God, not only to remember the destination towards which we are bound but also to let God’s will illuminate our earthly pilgrimage and help us live it with intensity and commitment.
How does the Lord guide the Christian community to a deeper interpretation of history? First of all by asking it to consider the present that we are living in realistically. The Lamb then opens the first four seals of the scroll, and the Church sees the world in which it is inserted, a world in which there are various negative elements. There are the wicked deeds of men and women, such as acts of violence that stem from the desire to possess, to dominate each other, even to the point of self-destruction (the second seal); or injustice, because people fail to respect the laws that that they have given themselves (the third seal). To these are added the evils that human beings must suffer, such as death, hunger and pestilence (the fourth seal).
In the face of these all too often dramatic situations the ecclesial community is asked never to lose hope, to believe firmly that the apparent omnipotence of the Evil One comes up against the real almightiness which is God’s. And the first seal which the Lamb breaks open contains this very message. John recounts: “And I saw, and behold, a white horse, and its rider had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer” (Rev 6:2). God’s power that cannot only offset evil but can actually overcome it, entered human history. The colour white refers to the Resurrection: God made himself so close that he came down into the darkness of death to illuminate it with the splendour of his divine life; he took the evil of the world upon his own shoulders to purify it with the fire of his love.
How can we develop in this Christian interpretation of reality? The Book of Revelation tells us that prayer nourishes this vision of light and of deep hope in each one of us and in our communities: it invites us not to let ourselves be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good, to look at the Crucified and Risen Christ who associates us with his victory. The Church lives in history, she does not withdraw into herself but courageously continues on her journey through difficulty and suffering, forcefully asserting that in the end evil does not overcome good, that darkness does not conceal God’s splendour. This is an important point for us; as Christians we can never be pessimistic; we know well that on our journey through life we often encounter violence, falsehood, hatred and persecution, but this does not discourage us. Prayer teaches us above all to see God’s signs, his presence and his action, indeed, to be lights of goodness ourselves, spreading hope and showing that the victory is God’s.
How do I see reality? Do I try to develop a Christian interpretation of reality through prayer or do I let the evening news or my favorite pundits form my interpretation of reality? Do I give in to pessimism or cynicism? Do I try to overcome evil with good? Do I believe that God wins the victory and that He makes all things new?
God turned our human logic on its head when He chose to enter this world in hiddenness and weakness, not as a powerful King or a mighty warrior, but as a tiny infant in the womb of Mary. He kept this posture through His whole life, until He died as a King crowned with thorns and a warrior armed only with a Cross. By remaining spiritually in the womb of Mary, we can see the fingerprints of God in history and face future trials with hope through the eyes of the true infant King.
Veni Sancte Spiritus
Ave Maris Stella or Sub Tuum Praesidium
Litany of Penance or Radiating Christ