Sunday, January 16, 2011

Victory and Salvation.

9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; 10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. 11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, 12 Saying , Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.

9 post haec vidi turbam magnam quam dinumerare nemo poterat ex omnibus gentibus et tribubus et populis et linguis stantes ante thronum et in conspectu agni amicti stolas albas et palmae in manibus eorum 10 et clamabant voce magna dicentes salus Deo nostro qui sedet super thronum et agno 11 et omnes angeli stabant in circuitu throni et seniorum et quattuor animalium et ceciderunt in conspectu throni in facies suas et adoraverunt Deum 12 dicentes amen benedictio et claritas et sapientia et gratiarum actio et honor et virtus et fortitudo Deo nostro in saecula saeculorum amen

9 Μετὰ ταῦτα εἶδον, καὶ ἰδοὺ ὄχλος πολύς, ὃν ἀριθμῆσαι αὐτὸν οὐδεὶς ἐδύνατο, ἐκ παντὸς ἔθνους καὶ φυλῶν καὶ λαῶν καὶ γλωσσῶν, ἑστῶτες ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου καὶ ἐνώπιον τοῦ ἀρνίου, περιβεβλημένους στολὰς λευκάς, καὶ φοίνικες ἐν ταῖς χερσὶν αὐτῶν: 10 καὶ κράζουσιν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ λέγοντες, Ἡ σωτηρία τῷ θεῷ ἡμῶν τῷ καθημένῳ ἐπὶ τῷ θρόνῳ καὶ τῷ ἀρνίῳ. 11 καὶ πάντες οἱ ἄγγελοι εἱστήκεισαν κύκλῳ τοῦ θρόνου καὶ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων καὶ τῶν τεσσάρων ζῴων, καὶ ἔπεσαν ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου ἐπὶ τὰ πρόσωπα αὐτῶν καὶ προσεκύνησαν τῷ θεῷ, 12 λέγοντες, Ἀμήν: ἡ εὐλογία καὶ ἡ δόξα καὶ ἡ σοφία καὶ ἡ εὐχαριστία καὶ ἡ τιμὴ καὶ ἡ δύναμις καὶ ἡ ἰσχὺς τῷ θεῷ ἡμῶν εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων: ἀμήν.

The Apocalypse 7.9-12
I'm doing some very slow reading of the Apocalypse as part of my practice of Lectio Divina. I'm finding this very rewarding but not a little puzzling with all the images that the Apocalypse throws into one's head.

This little passage occurs in between the breaking of the sixth and seventh seals. The first seal brought forth the horseman Conqueror, the second the horseman Discord, the third the horseman Famine and the fourth the horseman Pandemic. These are my names for them having mulled over their roles. More on them in a moment. The fifth seal brings forth what appears to be a cosmic disaster that shakes the foundation of the earth, and the sixth brings forth the angel with the seal who marks the 144,000 of the Jewish tribes.

After all these things the countless crowd (who do not number 144,000 since that is a rather accurately counted number) cry out:

"Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb."
It's a bit of a puzzling statement at first glance: "Salvation to our God," (Ἡ σωτηρία τῷ θεῷ ἡμῶν or salus Deo nostro ). One of the modern Bible Translations that I have in front of me (it's my REB Oxford Study Bible) translates "σωτηρία" as Victory. It's not quite good enough really. The word is Salvation. The Latin has connotations of a restoration to health, the Greek a deliverance. We can say "Victory to Our God" and rightly so for He, a Human Being, has conquered Death, but it's easy for it to stop there. There is no need for us to be involved - it's someone else's fight. However, to say "Salvation to Our God" is to ascribe the reason for our deliverance from sin relies solely on the achievement of God.

We have our own struggle in life. We struggle to reach Salvation because we have a part to play. We also have a risk which this struggle involves. All struggle involves the risk of failure. Could Christ have failed? Well, Christians believe that He didn't; the World believes that He did. In order for people to be free to choose, the Truth of the Resurrection lies only upon those who are prepared to take the risk and believe. Faith involves a risk.

If then faith be the essence of a Christian life, and if it be what I have now described, it follows that our duty lies in risking upon Christ's word what we have, for what we have not; and doing so in a noble, generous way, not indeed rashly or lightly, still without knowing accurately what we are doing, not knowing either what we give up, nor again what we shall gain; uncertain about our reward, uncertain about our extent of sacrifice, in all respects leaning, waiting upon Him, trusting in Him to fulfil His promise, trusting in Him to enable us to fulfil our own vows, and so in all respects proceeding without
carefulness or anxiety about the future.

John Henry Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons iv.20

Thus, in being prepared to take a risk, we find ourselves in an interesting place. One can cite the new leaders of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, Frs Newton, Burnham and Broadhurst, who have risked stipends and ways of life, their reputation, their status as Bishops all for pursuit of what they hold dear. That makes them either supremely foolish, or supremely brave.

But they have risked and thus they have the potential for victory or for failure. Likewise they have risked everything in the pursuit of salvation. If they had remained behind, they believe that they would not have received it. The point is that Salvation requires effort on our part. Living a faith requires a struggle, a worked faith, "risking it all on a game of pitch and toss".

The cause of our Salvation is God. The offer of Salvation is from God. Our assistance to Salvation is God. The end of our Salvation is God. And this is why we work out our salvation in fear and trembling, we risk everything to stand in the Presence of God - but in the presence of God is the truth of how much we have honestly invested in Him.

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