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Eastern Catholics and the Book of Revelation #73835 01/29/02 02:12 PM
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OneHoly Offline OP
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On Sunday, at our Byzantine parish Bible Study, our pastor told us that we weren't going to concentrate very much on the Book of Revelation, since historically this book hasn't played much of a role in Eastern Christianity.

Now, I know it is true that this book was only reluctantly accepted as canonical by the Eastern Churche, and was accepted mostly for the reason that Rome was so admant about its canonization (as were many of the Fathers).

But I can't help but think of Schott Hahn's book "The Lamb's Supper". In it, he explains the relationship between the Mass [Divine Liturgy] and the Book of Revelation. He makes the case, quite convincingly I believe, that Revelation cannot be interpreted apart from the Liturgy. I reccomend this book to all.

Now, it's obvious that his book was written mainly for a Latin audience (most Catholic literature is, and needs to be; since most Catholics today are Latin). Still, after reading it, and after seeing how he makes the case for "the Mass being heaven on Earth", I cann't help but wonder if the book of Revelation holds a greater place in our Byzantine Church than we take.

Hahn points to images in Revelation, like incense, an altar, the Lamb, the feast, priests, elders, saints, the Sanctus praise, candles, ornamentations, etc; Images that recurr throughout Mother Church's liturgies.

I couldn't help but think that his book was profoundly Byzantine in it's content. The Novus Ordo of the Latin Church can hardly, based on ppearances, be called "heavenly", as polka and clown Masses (ugh!) show us. [Of course, there are exceptions; St. John Cantius in Chicago, for example, celebrtaes a Solemn High Novus Ordo. It truly is Heaven-on-Earth]. Rather, the images we see of worship and praise in Revelation seem to be reflected in the Byzantine Divine Liturgy.

I'm wondering if perhaps John's Apocalypse has mor bearing on us as Byzantines than we sometimes think. Perhaps we take the Apocalypse for granted?

I really started wondering about this when my Protestant firend started attending our Liturgy weekly. (I'll call him "Dave".) Dave told me, after Liturgy, how profoundly Biblical it was. First, he was impressed with what reverence we treat the Gospel book. Second, he was moved by the chanting of the Gospel, and by the chanting of other Biblical exclamations throughout the Liturgy. Finally, he said that he felt like he was smack in the middle of the Book of Revelation, worshipping with the elders and the angels.

So, do I have something going here? Could it be that while Fundamentalists and othe sects study the Book of Revelation more and come up with weird interpretations evry decade or so, we Byzantines are LIVING Revelation every day, at every celebration of the Divine Liturgy, and JUST DON'T KNOW IT? Is this but another of the treasures of our Faith, just waiting to be unearthed and appreciated anew? Did Basil and Chrysostom have in mind the Apocalypse when composing our Liturgies?

Or is this all wishful thinking on my part?

Comments and reflections are appreciated.

P.S. Please pray for Dave's conversion! He's almost ready to leave Pentecostalism, for either Catholicism and Orthodoxy. He wants to find a Church that is truly Bible-Believing and Apostolic, and he's trying to choose between the Catholic and Orthodox. I'm trying to help him see that the Church of the Apostles is the Church of Peter, the Church built upon the Rock, guided by "our holy ecumenical pontiff John Paul, the Pope of Rome"! He's a great admirer of our Holy Father as well, especially in his "conservative" teachings, which he finds alcking with many Orthodox. I think he may come home soon, as a Byzantine Catholic! Prayers please!

Re: Eastern Catholics and the Book of Revelation #73836 01/29/02 03:02 PM
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Dear OneHoly (Orthodox, Catholic and Apostolic?)

Welcome!

This is an issue I've thought about myself and I agree with you.

It is a fact that the worshipful context as reflected in the Book of Revelation is to be experienced in our Liturgy, to be sure.

It is because of the highly symbolic language of the Book that the East only reluctantly agreed to include it in the New Testament Canon.

The reason for this is that the entire New Testament is read liturgically and there was the fear that Revelation would not be understood by the majority in Church. To this day, it is not read in our Church.

That doesn't mean it cannot be read by us privately. The private Rule of Readings assigned to monks and to laity, definitely does include the Book of Revelation.

Nor does this mean that the Church did not draw on the wisdom and wonder of the Book of Revelation in its liturgy and theology.

The same is true of other non-canonical books that helped shape liturgical prayer and feasts (e.g. Entrance into the Temple, the Dormition, Feast of St John the Theologian, Feast of St Andrew and other biographical information to be found only in such books).

I've always found the liturgical prayer and services of our Church to be the best way in which to live the Book of Revelation and the mysticism that is so Johannine and is so characteristic of the Orthodox Church (in or out of communion with Rome).

Glory to the One Who was, Who is and Who is to come!

Alex

Re: Eastern Catholics and the Book of Revelation #73837 01/29/02 05:31 PM
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Joe T Offline
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OneHoly,

Holy Things for Holy People!

The Book of Revelation is not read in our Churches, but the imagery of liturgy throughout is very Eastern. A visiting priest to our parish one Sunday celebrated a liturgical service based on the liturgy found in Revelation (the one mentioning the 'elders' and bowing before the throne). The students in the adult ECF made prostrations as the priest followed the Revelation text. It definitely was not foreign to what we as Byzantines already do, especially during Lent. It might not be an issue of how John's Apocalypse is found in the Liturgy, but also how the Liturgy is found in the Apocalypse. Can it be that the Apocalypse, which is a heavily symbolic text, uses what only the Christians could understand (i.e., liturgy), given the fact that most were illiterate? The Apocalypse of John shares the same source-font that our liturgies do. They're siblings. I don't know the reasons your pastor had for not going over the Book of Revelation. I personally found it rewarding when my own pastor spent an entire ECF year covering the book in our adult education.

The four animals spoken about in the Apocalypse can also be found before the throne on the Royal Doors of the iconostasis. The seven-branch lampstand? Guess where that one is? How about the Cherubim guarding the Garden of Eden (Intimacy and Communion with God) mentioned in Genesis? Can find that one on the ripidia. Why mention a man wearing white? Jesus? Church elder? Vestments? Baptismal robes (put on Christ)? The Book of Revelation is laced with liturgical references. Byzantines can't take the Book of Revelation for granted if they wish to be good liturgists. Why read a book in church about a liturgy when you are already doing it?

A number of Jews have also felt at home with our Liturgy and Temple. We are sooooooooooooo Biblical! We do Bible things in Bible ways. The “Living Bible” is not just someone's fancy written on a train while going to work in Chicago.

Your Pentecostal friend is very perceptive of the reciprocal relationship between Liturgy and Scripture. The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is built with biblical verses, almost 200 in all. St. Basil's Liturgy has nearly 300 verses in its fixed text, including the prayers. These totals do not include the actual scripture readings themselves. The ever-changing propers are also alive with scripture; such as the Antiphons, Prokeimena, Alleluias, and Communion Hymns. The Byzantine Liturgy brings the Bible alive in a real way for us to participate in. We can call it, “The Bible Alive.”

In addition to Hahn's book, I would suggest reading, “The Paschal Liturgy and the Apocalypse" by Massey Hamilton Shepherd. He attempts to demonstrate how the structure of the Book of Revelation runs parallel to the rite of a Paschal Baptism. Here is an outline based on his book. The text of Revelation is paralleled with the Liturgy.

Rev 1-3: The Seven Letters // The Scrutinies
Rev 4-5: The Assembly before the Throne of God // The Vigil
Rev 6: The Seals: 1-6 // The Lessons
Rev 7: The Pause & Sealing of the White-robed Martyrs // The Initiation or Baptism
Rev 8: The Seventh Seal // The Synaxis, Chrismation
Rev 8: The Censing // The Prayers, Laying on of Hands
Rev 8-9: The Trumpets, Woes // The Law (Exodus), Anointing
Rev 10-11: The Pause, Little Scroll, Two Witnesses // The Prophets, Sealing the Forehead
Rev 12-15: The Seventh Trumpet, 3rd Woe, Struggle between Christ and Anti-Christ // The Gospel, Kiss of Peace
Rev 16-18: The Vials // Trials of the Flesh
Rev 19: Alleluiah // Psalmody
Rev 20: Marriage Supper of the Lamb // The Eucharist
Rev 22: Consummation // Life in the Spirit

Using the Liturgy as a template for the structure of a biblical text is not unique to the Apocalypse (It can be found in John's Gospel too). The author is there on the Lord's Day united with fellow Church members. The drama of Revelation is liturgical; it brings together the earthly here with the heavenly 'now.'

As for the fundamentalists, interpretations can multiply like rabbits (a phenomenon that parallels their growth in the number of denominations – Are they nearing 30,000 yet?). Such are the results of forgetting how to think "biblically.' The Church has kept the ability to think biblically for two millennia. It knows well how to proclaim the Gospel message and the rest of the Bible for it was its very own publication! We as Byzantine Christians still worship in a New Testament way. Those who don't share in the mystical unfolding of God's Kingdom via liturgy will never appreciate or understand John's Apocalypse as being a scene of heaven-and-earth; though it is interesting how the pagan embassadors of Vladimir to Constantinople still had the ability to recognize and give witness to this Heaven-and-Earth. So, instead we get silly movies that portray a literalist understanding with lots of fear, funny numbers and markings on foreheads, secret codes and numerology, etc. This beautiful book is not a book of liturgy, of communion, but one that begins to promote fear and worry. Such a lack of trust in God!

Unfortunately, many of us Eastern Catholics have been long accused of being allergic to the Bible or take it for granted. Not so. Yet sometimes we have to stop and smell the roses and appreciate once again that which aids in feeding us spiritually. The lightbulbs turn on when the biblical foundation of our liturgies is discussed amongst friends. The space between the biblical outlines are now colored in.

We are in an unfortunate situation with a schism between the Orthodox and Catholic Communions. I know of no First Millenium Church that knew not the Pope of Rome. Much talk has been made of “returning” to the Church of the First Millenium, but how different that Church was when the Pope had more than a mere “honorary” role in the East. You mention the liturgical author, John Chrysostom. If he could appeal his case to Rome (and two other Western bishops) then we have to consider this. The same goes for the Apostles of the Slavs when they experienced trouble. This is the Byzantine Church I know, though in practice today it might not be so perfect.

Welcome to the forum!


Cantor Joe Thur
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[ 01-29-2002: Message edited by: J Thur ]

Re: Eastern Catholics and the Book of Revelation #73838 01/29/02 08:13 PM
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One of my fellow parishoners is excited to read Hahn's book, after Hahn spoke of it in a lecture he gave in KC a couple of weeks ago. It seems Hahn does in fact refer the Byzantine Liturgy extensively, great to this particular parishoner's suprise and delight.

Re: Eastern Catholics and the Book of Revelation #73839 01/30/02 01:32 AM
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akemner,

It's nice to hear of our liturgy being referenced by authors like S. Hahn. Did you all enjoy his talk in KC?

OneHoly mentions the possibility of treasures of our Faith waiting to be unearthed and appreciated anew. I agree. So much is debated over the same polemics (yawn!) of East versus West, yet we cannot fathom or appreciate the shared sources of our Faith. We're good at having water-fights but can't stand the thought of sipping from the same wellspring.

Peace,
Cantor Joe Thur
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Re: Eastern Catholics and the Book of Revelation #73840 01/30/02 01:50 AM
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I was not able to attend Dr Hahn's presentation, but a number of fellow parishoners did. They all did enjoy the talk immensely.

BTW, what is wrong with water fights, they can be fun (unless they are malicious).

Re: Eastern Catholics and the Book of Revelation #73841 01/30/02 01:56 AM
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I think that this idea of using the Apokalypsis is an interesting one, but I would refer back to the Greek speaking Church's problems with the text.

When one does "symbolic" or better: "metaphorical" poetic language, the interpretation of the actual (Greek) scriptural language in contemporary language is a HUGE problem. Why? Because it presupposes an understanding of the original language's world-view and the ability to discern meaning directly from the text.

We moderns (Indo-Europeans) are very much imbued with a 'scientific' or empirical approach to semantics. That is: We read the words; we know the meaning of the individual words; we make judgements based upon those interpretations. We "know" what is written. Good New York TIMES theology; very bad linguistics.

Linguists are more than aware that texts can present a "proposition" (technical term), but the understanding of what that "proposition" is, is based upon our current knowledge of what "was" at the time of the composition. And that is REAL fuzzy. To base one's theological and prayer life upon metaphorical texts of 2,000 years ago in another language and time is just dangerous. Even several decades after the time of its composition, the Greek-speaking Fathers of the Church had some real problems (justifiably so!) with incorporating the then-equivalent of Ezra Pound into the "Scripture". It just allowed waaaaaay too much leeway to the loonies.

Just look at the Jack Van Impe's of today and their understanding of the 'prophecies'. (I think Jack V.I. is an OK guy, and he is ALWAYS referring to the Pope's teaching authority -- but I cannot allow myself to be seduced into his greasy chute just because he allies his "teaching" with legitimate Scripture and the authority of the First Bishop.)

The book of "Apokalypsis"? Read it on your own as a scholar. Learn the Greek; study the history behind it; approach it as you would any other "poetry course" (EEEEEK!), but follow our teachers of the Greek Church. NOT in liturgy. And definitely NOT as a foundation for theology. Think of it as 'ancient Greek Hallmark'. Cute and schmoozy, but irrelevant to adult spiritual growth. If the Latins think it's cool: fine for them. For us Constantinopolitan Christians, our best theologians and 'doctors of the Church' gave it a wide berth. We should do no less.

Evlogitai! (Blessings -- in the ancient mother-tongue.)

Re: Eastern Catholics and the Book of Revelation #73842 01/30/02 10:52 AM
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<<The book of "Apokalypsis"? Read it on your own as a scholar. Learn the Greek; study the history behind it; approach it as you would any other "poetry course" (EEEEEK!), but follow our teachers of the Greek Church. NOT in liturgy. And definitely NOT as a foundation for theology.>>

Dr. John,

There seems to be a lot of eschatological typology in the Apocalypse as J. Danielou mentions in his classic "The Bible and the Liturgy" (1956). Typology is a favorite of Byzantine theology, even more so than analogy, symbolism, and especially allegory.

I'm not saying that because of it we should introduce the reading of the Apocalypse into the Churches - it still carries the danger of misinterpretation - but we shouldn't fail to realize its liturgical value.

So many 'scenes' in the Apocalypse speak of Baptismal Liturgy. The Sea of Glass as baptismal water(?), the bowing at the bema(?), the wearing of white baptismal robes(?), incense, etc. Can we not see this eschatological scene on an ordinary Sunday morning when our pastor initiates new Christians or at the Paschal Celebration if there is/are initiation(s)?

Maybe the problem with the interpretation is our problem with being able to 'read' eschatological typology; similar to those unfamiliar with Byzantine iconography who cannot 'read' an icon beyond admiring its pretty colors.

Cantor Joe Thur
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Re: Eastern Catholics and the Book of Revelation #73843 01/30/02 09:51 PM
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if the Revelation is irrevelant to adult spiritual growth (is the suggestion here that it is a fairy tale?). then why did the Fathers include it into the canon of Scripture? If it was accepted into tis said Canon, then there has to be a good reason. if not, then did teh Fathers make a mistake?

Re: Eastern Catholics and the Book of Revelation #73844 01/31/02 01:03 AM
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I think that the essential issue, as Joe has explained, is the parallelism between what we experience in our liturgical lives (most broadly construed) and the symbols contained in the Apokalypsis. But it is the derivation that is the most important. We Byzantines worship the way we do because our earliest core understanding is derived directly from the synagogue services that the earliest Christians had experienced. Readings, bemas, holy-of-holies with the Torah, special garb directly paralleling the vesture of the high priest (cf Deuteronomy), processions with "The Book", etc. are all Jewish liturgics. Thus, Jews visiting our 'temples' will feel quite comfortable with the environment which still parallels their own.

Although the Apocalypse as a text parallels the symbolism of the liturgy, I think that the liturgical mindset of the earliest Christians (Hebrews mostly) is what gave birth to the form of our Divine Liturgy (with many, many embellishments from the Imperial court of whereever) and that the text of the Apocalypse was a written formulation -- with lots of metaphors and symbols -- that just 'codified' what was then common experience.

If I remember my NT course correctly, there was a serious debate about what would be included in the canon of Scripture. The Greek-speaking Church did not want "Revelation" included for fear it would give rise to 'strange practices'. The Latin speaking Church wanted it in. The Greeks wanted the letter to the Hebrews, but the Romans did not, believing it to be too "Jewish".

So, as compromise is the lubricant that keeps social structures intact, they included both of them. But our hierarchs (and monastic liturgists) did not include any readings from this book in our cycles. So, I guess my perspective is: if our forebears kept it out of the public worship of the Church, then I'll follow their lead and example, and tread lightly around "Revelation". No 'disrespect', just very cautious.

Blessings!

Re: Eastern Catholics and the Book of Revelation #73845 01/31/02 05:31 AM
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akemner,

I don't think the Fathers made a mistake. Maybe no room on the Lectionary schedule for another book after all the other ones got assigned? Something to investigate.

The opposite happened with regards to the Protevangelion (of James). Consider how this particular 'biblical' text was once a part of our Byzantine canon.

There are two areas I would like to point out. First, we cannot deny the influence of this text in our church. For instance, take a good look at the Annunciation icon. Mary is seated when Gabriel appears to her, and she is also holding a spindle of thread. Though Luke's account of the Annunciation does not mention what Mary was doing at the time of the visitation and what posture she was in, the Protevangelion states the following:

"... and the high-priest said unto them Cast lots before me now, who of you shall spin the golden thread, who the blue, who the scarlet, who the fine linen, and who the true blue." [Prote 9.3b]

The lots were cast and:

"... and the true purple fell to her (Mary) lot to spin, and she went away to her own house. Mary took the true purple, and did spin it." [Prote 9.4, 6]

After first hearing a voice as she went to draw water, she:

"... then trembling went into her house, ... and took the purple, and sat down in her seat to work it. And behold the angel of the Lord stood by her, ..." [Prote 9.8, 9a]

This first appearance of the angel at the well is traditionally called the Pre-Annunciation and is rarely depicted unless there is included around the icon of the Mother of God the story behind the Annunciation. In Luke's account, Mary ponders the meaning of Gabriel's initial greeting, "Hail, you are full of grace" before he continues with "Fear not." [Luke 1.28, 30]

Mary then took the finished true purple to the high-priest before going to visit Elizabeth where her cousin acclaims her to be "Blessed among ... women." [Luke 1.42] In the Protevangelion, it was the angel who stated that she was "Blessed among women" and not Elizabeth. [Prote 9.7b]

In our iconography, the Annunciation is based on the Protevangelion of James. Mary is usually shown dropping the spindle of purple thread in fear. Did she not return to the house "trembling" and wasn't "Fear not" one of the first words from the angel?

The canonization of the New Testament was a process that took time. Some books we included in our canon of scriptures are never read in church, others who have influenced our iconography, feasts, and hymns were stricken from the reading list or lectionary.

It had nothing to do with relevancy. In both cases, the Protevangelion and Revelation are in our Liturgy. The living tradition of the Church goes beyond the canon of Scriptures. In the case of the Annunciation, we read one thing and see another.

But before the Protevangelion is perceived to be a reliable text, we should note that it was written probably around 150 AD, long after the Temple and its cult was destroyed, and it is riddled with errors regarding Temple protocol. Yet it was cherished by some parts of the Church nonetheless, thereby lacking the Criterion of Universality for canonization.


Cantor Joe Thur
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[ 01-31-2002: Message edited by: J Thur ]

Re: Eastern Catholics and the Book of Revelation #73846 01/31/02 05:52 AM
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Quote
Originally posted by J Thur:
I don't think the Fathers made a mistake. Maybe no room on the Lectionary schedule for another book after all the other ones got assigned? Something to investigate.


I don't know, but I remember reading that in the Syrian Church, the Apocalypse never made the Peshitto (our "Vulgate"), or didn't make it in time, and so it isn't read at the General Epistle. We recognise it as Scripture, we have it in our Bibles, but we just don't read it at Qurbana because it wasn't in the Peshitto when the lectionary was created, I guess.

Re: Eastern Catholics and the Book of Revelation #73847 01/31/02 06:14 AM
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Joe T Offline
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Mor Ephrem,

Yes. By the time of its general acceptance, there was no room for it at the inn.

The collection, organizing and scheduling of the readings throughout the year in a lectionary is a fascinating area of study. Unfortunately, it is the least studied type of biblical manuscript to date because it is perceived as lackluster turf for biblical studies.

It is interesting to note that the Church planned to read the longest (Romans) Epistle first, then proceed through the rest of the year reading shorter and shorter Epistles until the very last one (Jude). Then we have the Apocalypse of John with its 22 chapters! Clearly a sign of a Johnny come lately.

Whether Bible Christians know it or not, they have the Church to thank for, especially considering that the order of the New Testament books reflect the mind of the Church. Their order, the same in every version, follows the early lectionary, the same one still used by Byzantine Christians.

Joe Thur

[ 01-31-2002: Message edited by: J Thur ]

Re: Eastern Catholics and the Book of Revelation #73848 01/31/02 06:26 AM
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Here's a quick, slightly OT question: Why is Revelation sometimes called Apocalypse? Obviously I know what the words mean, but in my St. Joseph Confraternity Bible, (DR-Challoner version) it calls the last book of the NT Apocalypse, not Revelation. Almost all modern Bibles do the opposite. Also, the RSV-CE says Revelation, with Apocalypse in parentheses.

MK

Re: Eastern Catholics and the Book of Revelation #73849 01/31/02 06:36 AM
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Michael,

The Revelation to John is a form of Apocalyptic writing. "Apokalypsis" means "Revelation", "disclosure" or "unveiling" in Greek.

My NRSV has "The Revelation to John" as its heading. Both titles ("The Book of Revelation" and "Apocalypse") have been used for twenty centuries. The word Apocalypse maintains its Greek connection/title.

Joe

[ 01-31-2002: Message edited by: J Thur ]

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