Advent with the Apocalypse (Ch 1; Dec 3)
December 03, 2023
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.

Advent with the Apocalypse of John
To spend Advent with the Book of Revelation may help restore the season’s orientation to the future coming of Christ in glory and judgment and not only his first coming at Christmas. “Advent has a twofold character. It is the season to prepare for Christmas, when Christ’s first coming is remembered, and it is the “season when that remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. For these two reasons, the season of Advent is thus a period for devout and joyful expectation. This twofold character is reflected in the two stages of Advent, each with its own special focus expressed in the corresponding preface of the eucharistic prayer. From the first Sunday to 16 December, the liturgy expresses the eschatological expectation of Advent, the watchfulness of God’s people looking forward to the time when Christ will come ‘again in glory and majesty, and ‘the salvation promised us will be ours.’ From 17 December until Christmas Eve, the texts proper to each day prepare us more directly to celebrate the Lord’s birth, ‘our hearts filled with wonder and praise.’” (ICEL; 1998)
The powerful imagery and strangeness of the Apocalypse can serve as an antidote to the sentimentality that so often clouds these weeks drawing our attention away from Advent’s serious and sobering challenge to prepare for that future through unswerving fidelity to Christ even during times of persecution and martyrdom. The twenty-two chapters of John’s Revelation fit perfectly in a season which, depending on the year, may comprise just that many days. Most of the time, however, a few days will remain in which to shift our focus to the Christ Child and the mystery of Incarnation.  Each post will comprise a whole chapter accompanied by a commentary (“lectio divina”) along with a piece of art (“visio divina”) and a musical selection (“audio divina”).
In past years we have been guided by commentators from the patristic and medieval periods and then by theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar.  In this third series the commentary is by British exegete Margaret Barker who provides a unique, and at times controversial, tour de force of the Book of Revelation.
Revelation Ch 1 (First Sunday of Advent; New International Version)

The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.


To the seven churches in the province of Asia:

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
    and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
    and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
So shall it be! Amen.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”

I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.


The traditional view of the Book of Revelation is that St John was in exile on the island of Patmos and on one Sunday ('the LORD'S Day’, 1.10), he saw the visions - all of them - and then wrote them down. The history of the book is rather more complicated than this. John, the beloved disciple and church elder, was responsible for the final form of the text, and his inspiration to write it down in this way could well have come to him on Patmos, but the words of this book were already ancient when John gave them their final form.
The final form of the Book of Revelation may date from the reign of Domitian, when it was translated into Greek and first made known to the churches. The Book of Revelation is a collection of prophecies and their interpretation, with the oldest material pre-Christian and all the rest clearly antedating the separation of Judaism and Christianity.
Just as the components of the Book of Revelation were written over many years, so too, there was no one author. Early Christian testimony that 'John' saw the visions must refer to his status as the chief of the prophets, the authorized interpreter of the tradition and compiler of the final form of the book.
The Book of Revelation is both visions and their interpretations. Ancient material, some far older than the Christian movement which adopted and preserved it, has been interwoven with interpretations, some pre-Christian, some from Jesus himself, but most from Christian prophets of the first and second generations. They believed that they were living in the last days, and so they wrote their history in that way, blending myth and contemporary comment, prophecy and fulfilment, culminating in their vision of the kingdom established on the Day of the LORD.
The Book of Revelation must be read in the light of Josephus' evidence that portents were seen and voices heard in the temple by those who served there (War 6.288-309). The visions of the Book of Revelation have a temple setting and the obvious conclusion to draw is that they came from priests and high priests, in some cases interpreting the very portents which Josephus records.
Musical Selection
Ego Sum Alpha et O, 
primus et novissimus, initium et finis, 
Qui ante mundi principium, et in saeculum saeculi, vivo in eterno. 
Ego Sum vestra Redemptio, 
Ego Sum Rex vester, 
Ego vos resuscitabo in die novissimo.  Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the Alpha and Omega,
the first and the last,
the beginning and the end,
who before the foundation of the world
and unto ages of ages live for ever.
I am your redemption;
I am your King;
I shall raise you up on the last day,
alleluia, alleluia. 
Rend the heavens and come down,
O God of all the ages!
Rouse us from sleep,
deliver us from our heedless ways,
and form us into a watchful people,
that, at the advent of your Son,
he may find us doing what is right,
mindful of all you command.
Grant this through him whose coming is certain,
whose day draws near:
your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

God for ever and ever. Amen.

(Collects are taken from the 1998 edition of the Roman Missal: Sacramentary prepared by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy)