THE APOCALYPSE OF JOHN
In light of the current political contingency
Having been asked to illustrate in a modern key a topic that is certainly not simple, which is the Apocalypse, even if my biblical culture is not so in-depth as to be able to discuss the subject exhaustively, I wrote down my brief observations on: ” The Holy Bible ”- CEI – The New Testament, John’s Apocalypse.
I tried to immerse myself in the testamentary spirit as much as possible. Thus, from the careful reading of John’s Apocalypse I have drawn eminently political considerations in a period in which politics, both at an Italian and world level, seems to be prey to storm winds with new fearsome outbreaks of war that are opening even in the heart of Europe itself (Ukraine).
But what does the Apocalypse represent for us, citizens of the world on the threshold of the third millennium? What universal message do we draw from it? Are we truly suspended in an abyss without being able to appeal to salvation, helpless spectators, unable to face the challenges that the beginning of the new millennium places before us? Are we slothful like those sinners placed by Dante, in Canto III of the Divine Comedy, in hell, because we are unable to act neither for good nor for evil? That is, unable to express our ideas, thus adapting to the mass and supporting the strongest for convenience?
Here we find ourselves debating an age-old question that often sees us losers in the face of history, forgetting what has been built up until now through the sacrifice of our predecessors, thinkers, and great men of the past. Sometimes you forget even the Shoah which seems to present itself in a different key also through the attitude of some of us who mock this truly ignoble and unworthy period of us human beings.
In the light of a re-reading of the Apocalypse, retracing the stages of the vision of John, kidnapped in ecstasy while he was on the island of Patmos and charged with bringing a message to men of goodwill, here is the vision that the angel discloses to him it seems anticipatory of all the conflicts, wars, pestilences that men themselves usually procure.
In the ecstasy and before the vision of the divine Lamb, Jesus Christ, in the midst of seven candlesticks that symbolize the seven Churches, all human contradictions emerge and the need to repent, as requested by the Lord, eliminating false idols, realizing the ephemeral human condition. Thus, in the speech to the seven Churches: in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pèrgamo, Tiàtira, Sardi, Filadèlfia, and Laodicèa, symbolically represented by seven golden candlesticks, the analysis of a critical situation that seems to affect the world since the origin of the human species. Just think of Cain and Abel! The craving for power and money, together with capital sins, represents the key to understanding the innate difficulty of man to rise above material goods to look at true happiness that can only come from the aspiration to the highest spiritual good.
Power, corrosive and vitiated by human complacency in applauding false idols, the powerful, without opposing their bad governance, places human beings in the lowest condition of slavery forced to a blasphemous power that has nothing spiritual. Unfortunately, modern times are more than ever afflicted by this plague which, a legacy of the past, brings to mind many historical episodes, but also historically high moral and civil figures. It makes me think of the sacrifice of men like Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, St. Maria Theresa of Calcutta and so many saints tortured and killed to support their ideas. Ideas of peace and freedom, of democracy and sharing of equal values, are not the prerogative of everyone, bent by material needs and fear, but of a select few capable of putting themselves at the service of others, of the common good, even at the cost of giving up. to pleasures and honors.
Christ, therefore, represents in the Apocalypse the true crossroads of thought which is then substantiated in daily activities, in doing concrete. Today, that politics follows arduous paths, in the approximate search for a balance of seats and not for effective participation in the life of the people, the message of the Apocalypse appears even more relevant.
For example, in the cycle of frescoes on the “Allegory and Effects of Good and Bad Government” by Ambrogio Lorenzetti (Palazzo Pubblico di Siena, 1338-1339), there is a clear vision of how in the second case (Bad Government) it was represented the devil at the apex of a corrupt and demagogic system.
The citizen pays the consequences all the more because, detached from a decision-making role, he finds himself the victim of an unfair mechanism, sometimes even triggered by himself through his vote or lack of participation in the vote, with often devastating consequences.
The role of God, the supreme judge, as it emerges from the pages of John’s Apocalypse, follows in the wake of biblical episodes, but in the key of redemption for those who are, after being tested, incorruptible results, free from the lust for power temporal, spiritually elevated towards the highest good. Here is how, from the pestilences, and punishments inflicted by the Lamb of God on man, after having broken the seven seals of the sacred book, that is a scroll of sacred parchments, it is clear that the unrepentant are destined for the second definitive death, not only that of the body but that even more serious and eternal of the soul.
Christ the Redeemer, that is, the one who will raise the fate of the world in the final judgment appears in this light when the Apocalypse was written about the first century AD. Next to him, the emblematic figure of the Virgin Mary stands out in all her dazzling beauty, crowned by her virtues, against the glittering scenery of a sky in which the Dragon would like to destroy her mission, that is to give birth to the son of God.
If we wanted to glimpse the hidden meaning of the Apocalypse, I would certainly extrapolate a strong message to today’s world that can be found in the destructive power that the world, even before divine punishments, is inflicting on itself. As well as in the mystical vision of the Heavenly Jerusalem, reborn on the ashes of human sins, in particular of Sodom and Gomorrah, but even more so of Babylon. The latter seems to be the symbol of globalization with its tower and misunderstanding among men due to different races, cultures, and languages. The same symbolism of the Beast and the prostitute, covered with gold and gems, who sit on seven hills in the desert, shows us only one way: the uselessness of accumulating wealth and goods, apparently harbingers of happiness, but in truth ephemeral symbols of fleeting material life.
In the face of eternity, the warning that emerges between the extermination of nations and the triumph of the messianic Jerusalem is that contingent materialism, consumerism also as a political allegory of reality only serves to delude men in the short span of life. Only those who believe in eternal values, in the verb which is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the beginning and the end, will be part of the ranks of the blessed, or those who will eat from the tree of life. All others who practice lying will not be entitled to the Kingdom of Heaven!
This concludes my speech which, from an allegorical key, draws the most hidden meaning and is responsive to our times: the beginning of a change for our sick world. It is hoped that this will happen before the historical nemesis takes over all of us and condemns us in unison to rot in a world we have made less sustainable and humane, belligerent, and without peace.