The very last day of the liturgical year we receive again the solemn warning about how we conduct ourselves throughout the time of our exile. The end of the book of Revelation offers some hopeful prophetic words about eternity, but reminds us that we must raise our minds and hearts to the mystery of Christ. Our sins and shortcomings ought to trouble us to some extent – we shouldn’t despair of course, but we should use the distress we experience, our guilt and shame, to plunge ourselves back into the merciful heart of God.
In the Office of Readings this morning St. Augustine himself echoes this distress: “Why do we now live in anxiety? Can you expect me not to feel anxious when I read: Is not man’s life on earth a time of trial? Can you expect me not to feel anxious when the words still ring in my ears: Watch and pray that you will not be put to the test? Can you expect me not to feel anxious when there are so many temptations here below that prayer itself reminds us of them, when we say: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us? Every day we make out petitions, every day we sin. Do you want me to feel secure when I am daily asking pardon for my sins, and requesting help in time of trial? Because of my past sins I pray: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and then, because of the perils still before me, I immediately go on to add: Lead us not into temptation. How can all be well with people who are crying out with me: Deliver us from evil?”
In Christ, the Tree of Life, all is well. In us, all is not well and we are without light so long as we do not turn towards Jesus and away from our darkness. The Lamb who is in the middle of the city of God, the new Jerusalem, our heavenly home, is pouring out grace and mercy so that we might progress in this life towards love and freedom. May we then progress more in virtue than in vice with His help, and may we ever hear the warning of the end so that we implore al the more His saving help.
“I saw a single throne set up, and I saw a single Lamb standing in the presence of the throne.” This refers to the incarnation of the Savior. Scripture says, “Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” “And there was a fountain of water coming forth from beneath the middle of the throne.” Notice that it is from the midst of the throne that there issues forth a river of graces. That river does not issue forth from the throne unless the Lamb is standing before it, for unless we believe in the incarnation of Christ, we do not receive those graces.1
APRINGIUS OF BEJA:
Therefore, the living water which is like crystal and is perfectly clear is the washing of the holy font and the resulting brightness of most blessed faith. It is said to flow from the throne of God and the Lamb because the cleansing is from him, life is from him, and all righteousness and holiness of baptism flows from and proceeds from him.2
The river of life that flows in the midst of the city no longer signifies the administration of baptism. Rather, the fruit of that sacrament is here revealed. For we sow now in tears what we shall then reap in joy, and so now the church “sows to the Spirit so that it might reap eternal life.”3
This tree bears twofold: it produces fruit and it produces foliage. The fruit that it bears contains the meaning of Scripture; the leaves, only the words. The fruit is in the meaning; the leaves are in the words. For that reason, whoever reads sacred Scripture, if he reads merely as the Jews read, grasps only the words. If he reads with true spiritual insight, he gathers the fruit. “And whose leaves never fade.” The leaves of this tree are by no means useless. Even if one understands holy Scripture only as history, he has something useful for his soul.…4
CAESARIUS OF ARLES:
It is speaking of the cross of the Lord. There is no tree that bears fruit in every season except the cross that the faithful, who are made wet by the water of the church’s river, eat. And these [faithful] in turn produce eternal fruit in every season.5
“But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare.” You heard the proclamation of the eternal King. You learned the deplorable end of “drunkenness” or “intoxication.” Imagine a skilled and wise physician who would say, “Beware, no one should drink too much from this or that herb. If he does, he will suddenly be destroyed.” I do not doubt that everyone would keep the prescriptions of the physician’s warning concerning his own health. Now the Lord, who is both the physician of souls and bodies, orders them to avoid as a deadly drink the herb “of drunkenness” and the vice “of intoxication” and also the care of worldly matters. I do not know if any one can say that he is not wounded, because these things consume him.
Drunkenness is therefore destructive in all things. It is the only thing that weakens the soul together with the body. According to the apostle, it can happen that when the body “is weak,” then the spirit is “much stronger,” and when “the exterior person is destroyed, the interior person is renewed.” In the illness of drunkenness, the body and the soul are destroyed at the same time. The spirit is corrupted equally with the flesh. All the members are weakened: the feet and the hands. The tongue is loosened. Darkness covers the eyes. Forgetfulness covers the mind so that one does not know himself nor does he perceive he is a person. Drunkenness of the body has that shamefulness.6
- HOMILIES ON THE PSALMS 1 (PS 1). Weinrich, W. C. (Ed.). (2005). Revelation (pp. 387–388). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- TRACTATE ON THE APOCALYPSE 22:1. Weinrich, W. C. (Ed.). (2005). Revelation (p. 388). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON THE APOCALYPSE 22:1. Weinrich, W. C. (Ed.). (2005). Revelation (p. 388). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- HOMILIES ON THE PSALMS 1 (PS 1). Weinrich, W. C. (Ed.). (2005). Revelation (pp. 388–389). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- EXPOSITION ON THE APOCALYPSE 22:2, HOMILY 19. Weinrich, W. C. (Ed.). (2005). Revelation (p. 390). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- HOMILIES ON LEVITICUS 7.5–6. Just, A. A. (Ed.). (2005). Luke (pp. 325–326). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.