Advent with Revelation (Ch 18)
December 14, 2022
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.

Chapter 18 (Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent)

After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority; and the earth was made bright with his splendour. He called out with a mighty voice,
‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!
   It has become a dwelling-place of demons,
a haunt of every foul spirit,
   a haunt of every foul bird,
   a haunt of every foul and hateful beast.
For all the nations have drunk
   of the wine of the wrath of her fornication,
and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her,
   and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxury.’ 

Then I heard another voice from heaven saying,
‘Come out of her, my people,
   so that you do not take part in her sins,
and so that you do not share in her plagues;
for her sins are heaped high as heaven,
   and God has remembered her iniquities.
Render to her as she herself has rendered,
   and repay her double for her deeds;
   mix a double draught for her in the cup she mixed.
As she glorified herself and lived luxuriously,
   so give her a like measure of torment and grief.
Since in her heart she says,
   “I rule as a queen;
I am no widow,
   and I will never see grief”,
therefore her plagues will come in a single day—
   pestilence and mourning and famine—
and she will be burned with fire;
   for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.’ 

And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning; they will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say,
‘Alas, alas, the great city,
   Babylon, the mighty city!
For in one hour your judgement has come.’ 

And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo any more, cargo of gold, silver, jewels and pearls, fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of scented wood, all articles of ivory, all articles of costly wood, bronze, iron, and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, olive oil, choice flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, slaves—and human lives.
‘The fruit for which your soul longed
   has gone from you,
and all your dainties and your splendour
   are lost to you,
   never to be found again!’
The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud,
‘Alas, alas, the great city,
   clothed in fine linen,
     in purple and scarlet,
   adorned with gold,
     with jewels, and with pearls!
For in one hour all this wealth has been laid waste!’

And all shipmasters and seafarers, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning,
‘What city was like the great city?’
And they threw dust on their heads, as they wept and mourned, crying out,
‘Alas, alas, the great city,
   where all who had ships at sea
   grew rich by her wealth!
For in one hour she has been laid waste.’ 

Rejoice over her, O heaven, you saints and apostles and prophets! For God has given judgement for you against her. 

Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying,
‘With such violence Babylon the great city
   will be thrown down,
   and will be found no more;
and the sound of harpists and minstrels and of flautists and trumpeters
   will be heard in you no more;
and an artisan of any trade
   will be found in you no more;
and the sound of the millstone
   will be heard in you no more;
and the light of a lamp
   will shine in you no more;
and the voice of bridegroom and bride
   will be heard in you no more;
for your merchants were the magnates of the earth,
   and all nations were deceived by your sorcery.
And in you was found the blood of prophets and of saints,
   and of all who have been slaughtered on earth.’ 


The images employed here originate in the Old Testament; they come from the judgments upon Babylon and other pagan towns and hostile tribes, and even upon wayward Jerusalem itself; here they are heightened to monstrous proportions. It is as if the Lamb’s work of atonement is in the background as a fait accompli, but rejected, “blasphemed” (13:6, and so forth), aped and ridiculed (13:3) by the world; thus it necessarily summons “the wrath of the Lamb”, “the great day of their anger” (6:16-17: that is, the anger of God and the Lamb). 

Accordingly, the verdict on mankind’s cultural “evolution” is negative: merchants and seafarers all worked for the affluence of Babylon, but, now that she has collapsed, nothing is left but a lament for the futility of her glittering luxury, her trade in “men’s bodies and souls” (18:13). All that music and the other arts produced in the service of ease and eroticism is lost forever (18:21-24). This has nothing in common with the “works” that “follow” those who have died in the Lord and are pronounced blessed (14:13) or with the “glory” that the kings of the earth shall bring to the heavenly Jerusalem (21:24). 

Babylon’s fall is greeted with strongly Old Testament jubilation: this is purely punitive justice (18:1-8). The great lament of kings, merchants and seafarers, the portrayal of desolation, of the cessation of all forms of life (18:5-24), is not only a high point of biblical poetry, it is more: first, it is a judgment on the essential injustice of all secular economic life; then it looks ahead to the eschatological cessation of all cultural and social activity: the Old Testament images applying to the ruin of a city or of an individual empire are widened here to apply to the whole of history. This is followed by the sharp contrast of heaven’s thunderous Hallelujah, which looks backward to the sentence of vengeance that has been carried out (19:2) and forward to the “marriage of the Lamb”  (19:7, 9); as for the present: “God reigns” (19:6b).

Musical Selection

Hail a day so long expected
Hail the year of full release
Zion's walls are now erected
And the watchman's published piece
Throughout Shiloh's wide dominion
Hear the trumpets loudly roar
Babylon is fallen is fallen is fallen
Babylon is fallen to rise no more

All of Earth should stand with wonder
What is this that's come to pass
Murmuring like a distant thunder
Crying Oh alas alas
Swell the sound ye kings and nobles
Priests and people rich and poor
Babylon is fallen is fallen is fallen
Babylon is fallen to rise no more

Blow the trumpets on Mt Zion
Christ shall come a second time
Ruling with a rod of iron
All who now as foes combine
Fables garment sweet rejected
And our fellowship is o'er
Babylon is fallen is fallen is fallen
Babylon is fallen to rise no more


Grant, almighty God,
that the coming feast of the birth of your Son
may impart healing to us in this present life
and bestow on us the rewards of the life to come.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever. Amen.