|Horsemen of the Apocalpse Salvador Dali|
"The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory". Mark’s Gospel for this first Sunday in Advent is undeniably apocalyptic, a feature that makes it problematic for those main-stream Christians who have difficulty in believing in an apocalypse. They are understandably anxious to distance themselves from lurid conceptions of ‘the Rapture’, or some such religious extreme. Warnings that 'the end of the world is nigh' are widely regarded as characteristic of Christianity's lunatic fringe.
Yet, this Gospel passage can hardly be set aside. It is not the wild prediction of some eccentric Nostradamus. These are words of Jesus as recorded in the Christian Bible, and expressly appointed, in a Lectionary that the larger part of the Christian world now acknowledges and uses, to be read in public on this Sunday. So how are we to understand them?
|Apocalypse Ion Tucilescu (1910-62)|
The Bible is not science. It offers us something that science cannot -- religious and theological insights into human nature and the human condition, insights by which we can live. We are clay, and God is the potter, Isaiah reminds us. This means that both the number of our own days, and of the whole cosmos is determined in God’s good time, not ours. Prediction is pointless, since no one – not even God the Son -- can put a date to its end. What is called for, therefore, is perpetual watchfulness. This is one half of the message of Advent. The other half tells us that even the end of history can be regarded with hope rather than fear, because, as St Paul says in the Epistle, since the grace of God has already been given to us in Christ Jesus, we need not lack in any spiritual gift in advance of his final return.