VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 15, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of John Paul II’s address at today’s general audience, which he dedicated to comment on the canticle in Chapter 19 of the Book of Revelation.
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1. The Book of Revelation is sprinkled with canticles that are raised to God, Lord of the universe and history. Now we have heard one that we come across constantly in each of the four weeks in which the liturgy of vespers is articulated.
This hymn is sprinkled with the “Alleluia,” a word of Jewish origin which means “praise the Lord” and which, curiously, in the New Testament appears only in this passage of Revelation, repeated five times. The liturgy only selects some verses from the text of Chapter 19. In the narrative framework of the passage, they are intoned in heaven by a “great multitude”: It is like an imposing chorus that rises from all the elect, who celebrate the Lord in joy and festivity (see Revelation 19:1).
2. For this reason, the Church, on earth, marks the rhythm of her song of praise with that of the just who already contemplate the glory of God. Thus a channel of communication is established between history and eternity: It has its starting point in the earthly liturgy of the ecclesial community and has its end in the heavenly, where our brothers and sisters have already arrived who have preceded us on the way of faith.
In this communion of praise three topics are substantially celebrated. First of all, the great characteristics of God, his “salvation,” “glory” and “power” (verse 1; see verse 7), namely, transcendence and saving omnipotence. Prayer is contemplation of the divine glory of the ineffable mystery, of the ocean of light and love that is God.
In the second place, the canticle exalts the “Kingdom” of the Lord, namely, the divine plan of redemption of the human race. Taking up again the theme of the savior of the so-called Psalms of the Kingdom of God (see Psalms 46; 95-98), here is proclaimed that “the Lord has established his reign” (Revelation 19:6), who intervenes with supreme authority in history.
This is certainly entrusted to human freedom, which generates good and evil, but it has its ultimate seal in the decisions of Divine Providence. The Book of Revelation celebrates precisely the end toward which history is led through the effective work of God, despite the storms, wounds and devastations caused by evil, man and Satan.
In another page of Revelation is sung: “We give thanks to you, Lord God almighty, who are and who were. For you have assumed your great power and have established your reign” (11:17).
3. The third topic of the hymn is typical of the Book of Revelation and of its system of symbols: “For the wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready” (19:7). As we will have the opportunity to reflect more deeply in future meditations on this canticle, the definitive end toward which the last book of the Bible leads us is the nuptial meeting between the Angel, who is Christ, and the purified and transfigured bride, which is redeemed humanity.
The expression “the wedding day of the Lamb has come” refers to the supreme moment — “nuptial,” as our text says — of the intimacy between the creature and the Creator, in the joy and peace of salvation.
4. Let us conclude with the words of one of St. Augustine’s discourses that illustrates and exalts the Alleluia Canticle in its spiritual meaning: “We sing in unison this word and, united around it in communion of feelings, we encourage one another mutually to praise God. God can be praise with a peaceful conscience by the one who has not committed anything that displeases him. Moreover, as regards the present time in which we are pilgrims on earth, we sing the ‘Alleluia’ as a consolation to fortify ourselves through life; the ‘Alleluia’ which we pronounce now is like the song of the wayfarer; in walking on this exhausting way we tend toward that homeland in which is rest, in which, with all the present concerns having disappeared, there will only be the ‘Alleluia’ (No. 255,1: “Discorsi” [Discourses], IV/2, Rome, 1984, p. 597).
[Translation by ZENIT]
[At the end of the commentary, this English-language synthesis was read:]
In today’s canticle from the Book of Revelation, we encounter the frequent use of the word Alleluia, which serves as a bridge linking all the elect in their celebration of the Lord in joy and thanksgiving. The canticle describes the Church on earth joining its song of thanksgiving with the voice of the just in heaven, who unceasingly contemplate the glory of God. In this way, a channel of communication is established between history and eternity, uniting the earthly and celestial liturgies in a common song of praise. This same “communion of praise” reminds the faithful of three essential themes: namely the power and glory of God, his kingdom offering salvation for the human race, and the nuptial relationship between the Lamb, who is Christ, and his purified and transfigured spouse, which is humanity redeemed. May our common Alleluia always console and strengthen us on our pilgrim way.
[The Pope also addressed this greeting in English:]
I am pleased to greet the English-speaking pilgrims present at this audience, especially those from England, Sweden and the United States of America. Upon you and your loved ones, I invoke the Lord’s blessings of peace and joy.