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The Book of Revelation and the Model of True Worship


Put all the good works in the world against one Holy Mass; they will be as a grain of sand beside a mountain.” – St. John Vianney

We continue our sojourn through the Book of Revelation in these dwindling days of the liturgical year, and as we embark on the beginning of the fourth chapter (Revelation 4:1-11), we find ourselves in what can perhaps best described as a preparatory verse. As Father Mitch Pacwa points out in his morning homily during EWTN’s celebration of Daily Mass, it is the opening of the “visions.” The seven letters have been opened and now the visions begin. This passage is getting us ready for what is about to take place, and it is certainly worth noting that the vision is of heaven as a temple.

Father Mitch deftly draws a parallel between John’s Apocalyptic vision and Moses going up to the mountain on the heels of receiving the 10 Commandments and the subsequent offering of 12 bulls as a sacrificial covenant (Exodus 24:4-8). On this mountain top he too has a vision of Heaven and was told to make a temple out of a tent that was modeled on what he saw in Heaven. Here in the 4th Chapter of Revelation we begin to see this actual dwelling place, this paradise. This is what John is describing. Throughout the Book of Revelation, we see the heavenly celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles.

It is here that Heaven is described as the original Temple of God, from beginning to end. Also of note is this idea of heavenly worship and adoration that we see and experience today by way of the celebration of the Holy Mass and Eucharistic Adoration, along with the word of God literally proceeding from Heaven.
When reading the Book of Revelation, there’s a natural inclination to be drawn to the striking characters; the beasts, the dragons, the sea monsters and all the other assorted ghastly creatures The appeal here is obvious and speculation pertaining to the symbolism surrounding these figures, assuming they even do symbolize anyone or anything, is not altogether fruitless or frivolous. I for one dabble in this sort of analysis from time to time, but with very few reasonable conclusions drawn. In fact please feel free to leave your findings, thoughts, and theories in the Comments Section below. I would be most interested in reading them. But we must never lose sight of this seminal book’s true purpose.

The Book of Revelation offers us a model of genuine worship. There has been a temptation in recent years to make our worship relevant to the every day experience of people around us, whereas the Church has traditionally done her best to make the liturgy a window into heaven and the worship described in today’s passage and elsewhere throughout Revelation. To that point I draw your attention to the very first line of this passage wherein the disciple that Jesus loved declares “I, John, had a vision of an open door in Heaven.”

The Eucharist is a foretaste of eternal life. Here on earth, we are taken up into the heavenly realm and participate in the everlasting heavenly liturgy. Saint Gregory the Great believed that “the heavens open and multitudes of angels come to assist in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”

Liturgy is not meant to bring God down to our level; it is meant to raise ourselves up to God’s level.

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“Hymns of praise” should of course be hymns of praise directed to God, not directed to us. This would seem rather elementary of course, yet from time to time I think we forget that we celebrate the Holy Mass so that God can be glorified and that the world can be saved

I leave you with the words of Saint Peter Julian Eymard, words that bookend nicely the sentiments of Saint John Vianney, who kicked off today’s reflection. He said “Know, O Christian, that the Mass is the holiest act of religion. You cannot do anything to glorify God more, nor profit your soul more, than by devoutly assisting at it, and assisting as often as possible.”

”Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, who is, and who is to come.” ~ Revelation 4:8

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