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The Explanation Of The Apocalypse

v. 1. opened. Seeing that the seals are first loosed, and the book is then opened, he has purposely changed the accustomed order. For in that He suffered and rose again, the Lord taught the Church that He was the end of the law; and in that He ascended into heaven, by the mission of the Holy Spirit, He strengthened the Church with the gift of a more hidden mystery. So He then opened the book, and now He looses the seals of it. In the first seal, accordingly, he beholds the glory of the primitive Church, in the following three the threefold war against it, in the fifth the glory of those who triumph in this war, in the sixth the things which are to come in the time of Antichrist, and that with a brief recapitulation of former events, in the seventh the beginning of eternal rest.

Come. We also are admonished by the loud voice of the Gospel to behold the glory of the Lord.

white. The Lord presides over the Church, which is made whiter than snow by grace, and He bears the arms of spiritual teaching against the ungodly; and in the persons of His own He receives, as conqueror, a crown; as it is said of Him, “He received gifts in men.” In their persons also, although Lord of heaven, He was persecuted by Saul.

3. second. He is wisely bidden to observe the opposing horsemen, that, as he derives joy from the prosperity of the Church, so he may acquire caution also from its adversity, by foreknowledge of it.

4. red. Against the Church victorious and conquering there went out a red horse, that is, a malignant people, bloody from its rider, the devil. Yet we have read in Zechariah of the red horse of the Lord. But the former one is red with his own blood, this with the blood of others.

earth. That is, its own peace. But the Church has received an eternal peace, which has been left to it by Christ.

sword. That is, either against those whom he makes betrayers of the faith, or whom he makes martyrs. And concerning this it is said to the blessed Job, “He who made him has made His sword to approach;” that is, either that he may not try the saints, as much as the ungodly one wills, or, that the vengeance of his own rage may return upon himself.

5. black. The black horse is the band of false brethren who have the balance of a right profession, but hurt their fellows through works of darkness. For when it is said in the midst of the living creatures, “hurt not,” it is shewn that one is there who hurts. Of the running forward of this horse, the Apostle says, “Without were fightings, within were fears.”

6. hurt. Beware, he says, lest, by your most evil example, ye offend your brother for whom Christ died, and who bears the seal of the sacred blood, and of the chrism. For whether they are perfect in merits, or are even the least, yet whosoever in the Church are imbued with the faith of the Holy Trinity, are redeemed by the same perfect price of the Lord’s blood. And not without reason is the perfection of faith, or work, expressed by a measure of two pounds, and not by a single pound. For both alike have their root in a twofold love.

8. pale. Heretics who assume the garb of Catholics, are worthy to have death abide in their midst, and they draw after them the army of the lost. For the devil and his servants are, by a metonymy, called death and hell. It may also be taken simply, that there eternal punishment follows those who here are spiritually dead.

four (the fourth part). Behold the madness of Arius, which arose from Alexandria, and reached as far as the Gallic ocean, and pursued the godly, not only with a famine of the word of God, but also as wild beasts, with a material sword. Another version has translated it, “the fourth part,” because the three evil horses, confident in their rider, the devil, attack the fourth, the horsemen of the Church.

9. fifth. Because he had said that the Church was afflicted in manifold ways in the present time, he speaks also of the glory of souls after the punishment of the body. “I saw them,” he says, “under the altar,” that is, in the secret place of eternal praise. For the altar, which is of gold, and is placed within, and near the ark of the Lord’s body, does not, as the altar which is without, present flesh and blood to the Lord, but only the incense of praise; and they who now “offer their bodies a living sacrifice,” when the bonds of the flesh are broken, thus offer to Him the sacrifice of praise. It may also be by transposition that he did not see them under the altar, but those who had been slain under the altar, namely, under the testimony to the name of Christ, as it is said also of the Maccabees, “They fell under the covenant of God.”

10. voice. The great cry of the souls is their great desire for those things which they know that the Lord wills to do. For it is not right to suppose, that they wish for anything against the good pleasure of God, when their desires are dependent upon His will.

How long? They ask not this in hatred of their enemies, for whom they made supplication in this age. But in a love of justice, in which, as they who are placed near the Judge Himself, they agree with Him, they pray for the coming of the day of judgment, in which the reign of sin may be destroyed, and the resurrection of their lifeless bodies may come. For we also, in the present time, when we are commanded to pray for our enemies, say nevertheless, when we pray to the Lord, “Thy kingdom come.”

11. robes. The souls of the saints which rejoice in their blessed immortality, have now each one robe. But when their bodies arise, as Isaiah says, “they will possess double in their own land.”

rest. The desire of resurrection is not denied, but deferred, that the brethren may be gathered in and multiplied. For the joy of souls itself may also be represented by white robes, when they learn by the revelation of the Lord, that the ungodly are to be condemned at the last, and that even unto the end of the age many are to be joined to their number by martyrdom. Therefore, imbued with internal charity, and content with this consolation, they have been willing rather that their own joys should be deferred for the completion of the number of the faithful.

12. sixth. By the opening of the sixth seal the last persecution is announced, and that the world is shaken with darkness and fear, as when the Lord was crucified on the sixth day of the week.

sun. This is, as if the power of Christ were hidden, or His doctrine temporarily obscured, or covered by a veil, when the servants of Antichrist are brought to attack the servants of Christ.

moon. The Church, more than is wont, will shed her blood for Christ And he said “the whole,” because the last earthquake will be in the whole world. But before that, as it is written, “there will be earthquakes through divers places.”

13. stars. They who shine as heavenly ones in the Church, and that in appearance alone, when they are driven by the wind of the last persecution, will be proved to have been of earth. And their works are fitly compared to green figs, that is to the untimely, and useless, and falling fruit of the fig-tree.

14. heaven. As a scroll rolled up contains indeed mysteries within, while there is no appearance of them without, so will it be with the Church. At that time, known only to her own, she will prudently avoid persecution in retirement, that by such concealment she may remain unperceived by those without.

mountain. He speaks of the members of the Church, as differing according to the character of their offices or powers, and foretells, that no one will be without his share in this whirlwind. But the movement caused by it will be dissimilar, for in the good it will be one of precaution by flight, but in the bad, of giving way by compliance.

15. kings. The “kings” we take to be those who are powerful. For he will have persons of every degree and condition to be understood. Besides, who will then be kings except the persecutor alone?

hid. While all the weak at that time seek to be strengthened by the examples of the highest in the Church, and to be fortified by their counsels, protected by their advice, and sheltered by their prayers, they entreat the very mountains to fall upon them with a feeling of compassion. For “the high mountains are a refuge for the hinds, and the rocks for the hedgehogs.”

16. hide. That is, in order that He may not find us reprobates when He comes, but stedfast in the faith, with our sins covered by the intercession of the saints, and the mercy of God.

17. stand. He surely will be able to stand in that day who has now taken care to be watchful, to stand in the faith, to act manfully. But if thou refer this earthquake literally to the day of judgment itself, it is no marvel if the kings and princes of the earth are then afraid, and seek the refuge of the holy hills. For so, in the rich man clothed in purple, and the poor Lazarus, we read that it has already taken place.

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