Reflection on Today’s Daily Readings by Fr. Bertrand Buby, SM
Scripture: Lectionary 499. Revelation 4:1-11. Psalm 150:1-2.3-4.5-6. Luke
Today we enter into the realm of a vision by John of Patmos. We are blessed
by having all of chapter four as our first reading and we get a glimpse
from a New Testament prophet who sees the thrice Holy God seated upon a
throne in Heaven. The words Holy!Holy!Holy! of Isaiah 6:3 and of
Revelation 4:8 are a doxology that we sing or pray at every Mass that is
celebrated. It is called the Trisagion (thrice Holy One). As Christians it
helps us to strengthen our belief in the mystery of the Trinity and at the
same time to resonate the praise of prayer with Judaism and Islam in the
emphasis on the belief that God is One. Respect for the monotheistic
belief is important for all three religions and for our search for
understanding others who belong to a different religion. We all are like
John of Patmos focused on God and that is a good prayer.
One of the contemporary commentators of Revelation states that the great
message of this final book is very direct, strong, and simple: "Worship
God Alone." That is a key toward making accurate sense of this symbolic
book that uses much of the symbols of war, but understood as God's war
against Evil. It is both a prophetic book and an apocalyptic one that
searches to understand the last things (eschatology).
This is the first great vision of the seer that takes us into the realm of
Heaven. The twenty-four elders are both the tribes of Israel, the
prophets, and the twelve apostles side by side; with the prophets
understood behind the symbolism. The four distinct animals with faces of a
different sort have been associated with the four evangelists in the
ongoing tradition of the Church. They are taken from Ezekiel, a favorite
among the prophets for the seer called John. It is he who opens up for us
a share of his vision of Heaven while he cites words from the prophets. It
is a good image of Heaven that is more realistic than some of the fanciful
imagery that is more naive. Besides it is inspired.
St. Francis Xavier who taught the Christian prayers to the children and
simple folk of the Far East would say in harmony with the Trisagion, "O
Most Holy Trinity!" Isalm praises God with ninety-nine attributes; Judaism
shows Wisdom working with God from the beginning and the Shekinah is the
Holy Divine Indwelling and Presence of God. The Shekinah is the
manifestation of the Divine Presence in the life of human beings and the
principle of divine immanence in creation. "The Shekinah rests upon humans
not through gloom, indolence, frivolity, or idle chatter, but only through
the joy experienced in fulfilling God's commandments." (Shabat 30a). The
bliss of the beatific vision (seeing God as John of Patmos does) is
expressed in the words "there the righteous sit and enjoy the splendor of
the Shekinah." (Berachot 17a). In Jewish Mysticism the Shekinah represents
the feminine aspect of God.
On this day all three great religions can join in prayer praising God:
Holy! Holy! Holy! while being immersed in our respective faiths. Amen.
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