One of the appointed readings for the Church’s daily prayer comes from the Book of Revelation. It is often misunderstood. The Book of Revelation is the last book of the Bible and it is one of the most difficult to understand because it abounds in unfamiliar and extravagant symbolism, which at best appears unusual to the modern reader. Symbolic language, however, is one of the chief characteristics of apocalyptic literature, of which this book is an outstanding example. Such literature enjoyed wide popularity in both Jewish and Christian circles from about 200 B.C. to A.D. 200. See USCCB, Introduction to the Book of Revelation.
The book contains an account of visions in symbolic and allegorical language borrowed extensively from the Old Testament, especially Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Daniel. Whether or not these visions were real experiences of the author or simply literary conventions employed by him is an open question. Id.
This much, however, is certain: symbolic descriptions are not to be taken as literal descriptions, nor is the symbolism meant to be pictured realistically. Id. When reading it, we must remember that it was written during a time of persecution in the Early Church and it was written to give hope to the faithful.
Here is the reading for today:
‘And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens:
‘I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying—I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it. I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. (Rev. 3:7-13).
The letter to Philadelphia praises the Christians there for remaining faithful even with their limited strength during a time of persecution. The passage aims to give these Christians hope for the future even in the midst of turmoil and pain reminding them that they are in God’s loving and caring hands no matter what others may do to them.
Let us pray: O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
17 January 2013: Seaside Seniors at St. Augustine.
21 January 2013: MLK Day at St. Vincent’s House: Noon day prayers and celebration.
Please remember everyone on our Prayer List, especially Robert Hacker’s mother and family, Lee Runion and Randy Furlong.
Your servant in Christ,
The Rev. Chester J. Makowski+St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church
Galveston, Texas 77550