Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The slaughtered lamb yet lives!

Read Revelation 5:11-14

It happens in our dreams that contradictory elements combine to create very weird effects. I can dream that I’m in total darkness, but able to see what is going on. I can dream that I see myself as a character in my dream, all the while feeling inside myself what is going on. Or I can dream that a person is very young, and yet simultaneously very old. What is impossible in real life suddenly happens in dreams.

In the dream he describes, Saint John presents us with such a contradictory figure : a slaughtered lamb that is standing, alive. This lamb was obviously killed in sacrifice, as was the custom at the Temple in Jerusalem. Yet, this lamb is still alive and stands as if ready to walk. The lamb is fully alive; and yet, the lamb is dead.

This lamb stands before a throne where “someone” is seated. Around the throne, there are twenty-four elders, leaders of their communities. There were twenty-four classes of priests at the Temple in Jerusalem: could that explain the number?

Before the throne are four beings that resemble animals: a lion, a young bull, a flying eagle, and a fourth with a human face. Each being has six wings, covered with eyes: they see everything. Might they symbolize all living creatures in the universe?

And suddenly, millions upon millions of angels join the elders and the four beings in proclaiming the praises of the slaughtered, living lamb. Even more: all the voices of the universe, every creature “in heaven, on earth, underneath the earth and in the seas” start praising this lamb and the one who sits on the throne.

What a majestic scene: a universal liturgy where adoration is joined to praise, and song is wedded to poetry. Who is this liturgy for? For the one who sits on the throne, God, the Lord and creator of the universe. And for the dead-alive lamb, the risen Christ, Lord and saviour of humanity.

This dream teaches us that our frail human liturgies are in fact bound to a reality that surpasses us infinitely. Our churches reflect heaven itself. Our religious hymns echo the angels’ songs. Our congregations give voice to the immense number of creatures that, throughout the universe, find their source in God and their health in God’s Messiah.

Even now, we are caught up in this mystery, taken up in this celebration of love. Heaven reaches down to earth and eternity has already begun. Our little liturgies are greater than we can imagine.

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