Victory! – Thursday, 34th Week in ordinary time – Revelation 18:1-2, 21-23, 19:1-3, 9a
For someone who has just joined this set of teachings on Revelations, a recap will help you understand the “fall of Babylon” in chapter 18 and the text in Chapter 19.
By the time of the Roman emperor Nero, Christianity had spread and settled its roots in Rome and in Asia Minor (Modern day Western Turkey). Many Christians thought that, after the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem (in the year 70), after which Judaism was no longer a threat of any kind, the Church would enter into an era of peace and tranquility; instead, they had to cope with new and very violent persecutions.
Inevitably they asked; when will our Lord show himself and come to the rescue of his own and establish his kingdom once and for all? In the book of Apocalypse, the author John, inspired by God, tries to answer this question. The first thing which God has given him to “see” is that the Redeemer is indeed triumphant and that the faithful are victors with him. But he also points out that the Church will be persecuted throughout its pilgrim way on earth, and the faithful will suffer the same lot, if they stay united to the Lamb. The powers of darkness will make war unceasingly against the Spouse of Christ and will try to undermine the faith of believers. But they should not be dismayed: The Church will always triumph over its persecutors, and in union with the Church the faithful who stay true to the end will also achieve victory.
John, therefore, identifies the prime enemy of the Church in his own time as the Roman empire whom he calls the beast. Then there is the tool of the beast, namely the Dragon or Satan. Because it has prostituted itself, Babylon, whom John uses as a nickname for Rome, cannot win. It will be completely overthrown, and the Church is sure to triumph.
The reading consists of relatively short extracts from chapter 18 and half of chapter 19. In the first part, John announces the coming fall of ‘Babylon’, i.e. Rome, the centre of the empire and the source of so much persecution for the Christians. This is followed by songs of victory in heaven.
In a symbolic act, another angel lifts up a huge boulder, in the shape of a millstone, and hurls it into the sea. This was a very large millstone, sometimes called a “donkey millstone” because it was so heavy it required a donkey to turn it. This is what was going to happen to Rome. It is going to be destroyed because of its idolatry and for the sufferings it brought on the Christians. The violence shown in the throwing of the boulder is a symbol of the violence by which the power of Rome will be overthrown and city obliterated.
Then the vision of John moves into the second part (chap 19) to a huge heavenly assembly singing in joy and triumph: “Alleluia! Victory and glory and power to our God!” This is the song of those who have come successfully through persecution and oppression. The acclamation, ‘Alleluia’, is Hebrew for “Praise the Lord!” and is used four times in this passage but is found in no other part of the New Testament. Saying it in the imperative sense is an encouragement and an exhortation to Praise the Lord!
One reason this great multitude is so filled with praise is because the time has come for the Lamb of God to be joined unto His people, in a union so close it can only be compared to the marriage of a man and a woman.
We too must hold on to the belief that evil can never have the last word. Truth and goodness and justice will eventually prevail. Let us pray, though, that we may so live our lives that we, too, will receive that invitation to join the wedding feast of the Lamb