Pulling the Veil Aside

Are you one of those people who doesn’t read the Book of Revelation?  You may read the rest of the New Testament, or simply be familiar with the Gospels and the epistles, but you find this last Bible book too strange or forbidding.   Or is your attitude simply that this sacred book is best left for  scholars to sort out?

If so, then I can relate somewhat.  Recently however, I’ve taken a whole new approach to Revelation, formerly known as “The Apocalypse.”   (The Greek word, “apocalypse” means to “pull the veil aside.”   Hence the modern rendering; “Revelation.”)

It all started with my wife and I viewing the movie “Apocalypse” on DVD(2000).  We were moved by the storytelling and the skillful cinematic treatment of the book.  With its many visions and bizarre imagery, Revelation poses many challengers to any film maker.  Directed by Raffaele Mertes and starring the great actor, Richard Harris as St. John, this movie makes the text come alive as it provides a compelling and inspirational narrative.   Seeing the movie prompted me to go to the text for further study.

To the best of my knowledge, Revelation is the only Bible book that makes self-referential statements like this;

“Blessed is the one who reads aloud and blessed are those who listen to this prophetic book and heed what is written in it, for the appointed time is near.”          –1:3

Another ‘beatitude’ appears near the very end;

“Blessed is the one who keeps the prophetic message of this book.” –22:7

Not only that, but a few verses later and very near the end, there comes this chilling and unique warning;

“I warn everyone who hears the prophetic words in this book; if anyone adds to them so will I add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words in this prophetic book, God will take away his share in the tree of life and the hold city described in this book.” –22:18-19

This was certainly not the first time that I had read this passage.   I have been more or less familiar with it for many years.  What is new for me, is that I now realize how very important it is to receive these ‘blessings’ and heed the ‘warnings.’  I can  no longer afford to ignore or dismiss them as either mere suggestions or hyperbole.  Rather, I’m convinced that these words are fully inspired by the Holy Spirit and designed to deliberately draw my attention to the ultimate significance and saving power of Revelation.

Over the years,  only a few isolated verses from the book have moved or challenged me.  For example, we hear Jesus say;

“Look, I stand at the door and knock.  If you hear my call and open the door, I will come in to you and have supper with you, and you with me.”   — 3:20

This must be one of the most beautiful passages of the entire Sacred Scripture.  It has inspired artists, writers, preachers, and people like you and me over the centuries.  No doubt it has brought many, many souls into personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, and will continue to do so as long as this world endures.

Then, there are lesser known verses like this one;

” I open doors that no one can close and close doors that no one can open.”           –3:7

I have prayed with this Word many times over the years, especially when seeking direction from  God.  It has also consoled me tenderly when ‘doors’ have painfully ‘closed in my face.’   As both an aid for discernment, as well as a source of great comfort, this Scriptural promise packs real power.

There are many other such verses scattered throughout Revelation. But how will we come to know and pray with them, if we keep the book ‘at a distance?’  Then, there are the  extraordinary Chapters 4 and 5 which supply us with a vision of heaven, as the ‘veil is pulled aside.’  What a wealth of inspiration for us and for our prayer!  These chapters have anointed my time with the Lord consistently over the years.  This vision invites us to literally join  with the heavenly choir and taste a bit of the joy and exaltation that those in His presence enjoy eternally and in fullness.

Thus, I invite you dear reader, to take up  your Bible soon and fearlessly explore the astonishing, wonderful, complicated, yet stunningly simple, and ultimately enlightening Book of Revelation.

As you do, and when it does move and inspire you, don’t keep it to yourself…please.  Make a comment on this blog or share the Word with a friend or family member.  As with all of God’s Word, the more you share it with others, the more it will dwell inside of you and bring you ever closer to the living God!

 

Our Mother

Outside Immaculate High School Danbury, CT
Outside Immaculate High School in Danbury, CT

We have two great feasts upon us: the Immaculate Conception (Thurs, Dec. 8) and Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mon, Dec. 12).  I treasure them both because they celebrate aspects of Mary, our Blessed Mother, with whom I grew in relationship during my time as a Salesian Lay Missionary in Bolivia.

PLEASE READ ON: If you don’t have a relationship with Mary or disagree theologically with the Catholic Church, please continue reading because you might be blessed.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception celebrates the fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary was free from Original Sin from the moment of her conception.   The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in a beautiful and succinct way what we believe;

“To become the mother of the Saviour, Mary ‘was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.’  The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as ‘full of grace’…The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”  (P.490-91)

This truth was confirmed by Mary’s apparition at Lourdes, France in 1858 when she appeared to Bernadette Soubirous.  Bernadette, 14, was told by the Blessed Mother, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”  Her parish priest was shocked when Bernadette reported this.   He knew she wasn’t educated enough to be familiar with this newly declared doctrine.   We can conclude that it was Bernadette’s humility and simplicity that drew the Blessed Mother to her.

To be honest, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception didn’t touch my heart until I had a relationship with Mary.   As I grew closer to her, I came to see her as a role model for womanhood.  She was a humble and gentle woman who “pondered” what God revealed to her and didn’t force her own way.

“O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.”

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Patroness of the Americas)

Mexico had been devastated by Spanish conquistadores and the native Aztecs were oppressed.  In addition, the Aztecs were committing atrocities, like sacrificing infants and adults  to appease their gods.

In 1531, Juan Diego (John James), a poor, Native convert, was journeying to his sick uncle when Mary appeared to him.  She appeared on the Hill of Tepeyac, part of the Villa de Guadalupe, a suburb of what would become Mexico City.   She called him Juan Diegito – in Spanish, “ito” signifies dear or precious one.  This is what she said:

“Listen and let it penetrate your heart…do not be troubled or weighed down with grief.  Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety, or pain.  Am I not here, I who am your Mother?  Are you not under my shadow or protection?  Am I not your fountain of life?  Are you not in the folds of my mantle?  In the crossing of my arms?   Is there anything else you need?”

Bishop Zumarraga, skeptical at first, asked Juan Diego for a sign.  Mary caused roses to miraculously bloom in December, which Juan Diego gathered for the Bishop.  When he opened his tilma (cloak), the flowers fell out and Mary’s glorious image appeared on the tilma.  Almost five hundred years later, the tilma, made of fragile cactus fibers, remains intact and hangs in the cathedral in Mexico City.

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There are many miraculous signs associated with the image: Mary wears a cloak that’s tied above her midriff, signifying she’s pregnant.  Doctors have placed stethoscopes on the tilma and heard two heartbeats.  Scientists have looked into Mary’s eyes and seen the images of Juan Diego and Bishop Zumarraga.   The pattern of stars on the cloak that Mary is wearing reflect the stars as they would have appeared in the sky at that time.  For more amazing facts, please go to this link.

The significance of Mary’s apparition to Juan Diego is at least two-fold:  God, through Mary, reached down to touch His people, those on the lowest rung of society, and call them His beloved.  Secondly, ten million Aztec natives converted to Catholicism over the next ten years and stopped their practice of child sacrifice.  As a result, Our Lady of Guadalupe is considered patroness of the unborn, as well as patroness of the Americas.

We hope and pray that you are having a peaceful Advent and that you feel Our Mother’s presence in your life.