I took this picture earlier in the year of my favorite prayer shack at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Bardstown, Ky. Famous as the monastery of Thomas Merton, I can completely lose track of time during my retreats there. This particular Rosary Hut is my favorite place to forget about things and concentrate on prayer. I leave behind the time that often rules me and enter into the liminal space of eternal time.
In my studies on the book of Revelation, I am coming to the growing conviction that the book is less about a linear dating of a dramatic close of life and instead that it is a narrative of Christians living inside the world. How we further identify our own dwelling place, either in the city of God or in Babylon, Revelation speaks to the timeless breadth of the Church.
I have been surveying what others think about this idea and I have found some very interesting thoughts. In the book Narrative Reading, Narrative Preaching: Reuniting New Testament Interpretation and Proclamation,Stanley P. Saunders writes a chapter titled Revelation and Resistance: Narrative and Worship in John's Apocalypse. Saunders quickly sums his reading of Revelation in this quote;
Revelation was created for oral performance amid the eucharistic gatherings of the early Christians.
Saunders trots this out by dealing with the linear structure of the way that we assume narrative generally takes place, and explains it as only making sense inside a non-linear "imaginative participation". I have also been listening to lectures by Thomas Hopko's Apocalypse: The Book of Revelation Within Orthodox Christian Tradition. This series outlines the book of Revelation within an Orthodox framework. The Orthodox lectionary doesn't have a single reading from Revelation, it is the only NT book left out of their reading cycle. Hopko goes on to teach that its inclusion is not necessary because Revelation is woven throughout the Orthodox liturgy as a foundational principle.
Christian time differs from earthly time. It is caught up in the idea of time being something that is conceded to man so we can better understand who God is. Worship is then an active rehersal of the world according to God. To think of time being final to God is quite silly. Revelation as scripture is highly illogical in the most rational sense, because it must be read in relation to the entire canon. By removing the fairly recent interpretation of Revelation being a calender and instead integrating it within Christian time gives us a better reading, and a truer one to the larger tradition of Christian history.
Doing this isn't easy, and it takes stretches that might need a generation. Revelation must be preached, and not just to ease congregational concern. It is like remolding play-dough, and even having to add some water to it in the process. Revelation is a book of worship acted out in participation. It is an apostolic narrative of resisting the world. The 7 churches in chapters two and three set the stage, and the rest of the book is a culmination of biblical idolatry and the consequences of it.
In the end (no pun intended), we live against the idea of the end of times and actually think of the book as the entirety of time.
Glory be to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
As it was in the beginning, is now, and shall ever be, world without end.