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The Explanation Of The Apocalypse

v. 1. Lamb. That is, when this Church was toiling under the burden of its conflicts, the Lord Jesus Christ preserved it by the example of His power, and the defence of His protection. For when the body had been shewn which was confounded by the power of the dragon, and marked by his brand, he shews the Church rejoicing in its wonted splendour and numbers, that thou shouldest not be afraid lest the body of the Lamb had succumbed to the fury of the beast. And observe, that the beast stands on the sand of the sea, the Lamb on Mount Zion.

thousand. This finite number ought to be understood as infinite, and, by the signification of the hidden mystery, as suited to the virgin band, which loves God from the whole heart, the whole soul, and the whole mind; and to the body also, which consists of four qualities, and is in its integrity consecrated to Him. For three times three are nine, and four times four sixteen, and sixteen times nine make one hundred and forty-four. So, then, when from among those who are established in the merit of carnal life, and appear on Mount Zion with the Lamb, there is perceived so perfect a multitude, no doubt can exist concerning the other members of the Church.

foreheads. He shews what is the imitation of the mark on the forehead of the body of the beast, while he says that God and Christ were written on the foreheads of the Church.

2. waters. The loud voice of the saints is the great devotion of love, which he states that he heard from heaven, in saying that they who uttered the voice “stood on Mount Zion.” For he intended to shew that by Mount Zion he meant no other than the Church, which, in order to overcome the grievances of its afflictions, is exalted by the sublime delight of contemplation, and celebrates at once by praise and by imitation the conflicts of her King. For this is in truth to sing unto the Lamb Who stands.

harpers. When all the saints are God’s harpers, for “by crucifying the flesh with its vices and lusts” they praise Him on the psaltery and harp; how much more are they who, by the privilege of evangelical chastity, make themselves altogether a perfect sacrifice to the Lord, and who, in a special manner, “deny themselves,” and “take up their cross,” and follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth?

3. song. The old song was, “Blessed is He Who hath His dwelling in Zion, and His household in Jerusalem.” But the new song is, “Rejoice thou barren, that barest not;” and again He says, “I will give to my eunuchs in my house, and within my walls, a name better than of sons and daughters.”

able. In a special manner to sing a song unto the Lamb is to rejoice with Him for ever, even above all the faithful, because of the incorruption of the flesh. And yet the rest of the elect are able to hear this song, although they cannot utter it, because, through love, they still rejoice for their exaltation, if they do not rise up to their rewards.

4. virgins. The blessed Augustine has set forth this very beautifully in his exhortation to virgins, saying, “Go on, ye holy youths and maidens of God, ye men and women, celibate and unmarried, go on perseveringly unto the end. Praise the Lord more sweetly, Whom ye think of more frequently. Hope in Him more auspiciously, Whom ye serve more constantly. Love Him more ardently, Whom ye please more attentively. With loins girded, and lights burning, wait for the Lord, when He comes from the marriage. Ye will bring to the marriage of the Lamb a new song, which ye will sing upon your harps, such an one indeed as no one but ye will be able to utter. For so one saw you in the Apocalypse, who, above all others, was beloved of the Lamb, who was wont to lie upon His breast. He himself saw you, as twelve thousand holy harpers, of undefiled virginity of the body, of inviolate truth in the heart. Ye follow the Lamb, for virginal also is the flesh of the Lamb. Ye follow Him in virginity of heart and flesh, whithersoever He may go. For what is to follow, but to imitate? Because “Christ suffered for us, leaving you an example, that ye should follow His steps.” ”

firstfruits. They are chosen by the Holy Spirit for the merits of their will, as holier and purer victims, from the holy and immaculate flock of the Church. For the Apostle, having no commandment of the Lord concerning them, implores them that they “present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.”

5. guile. Virgins are not united to the divine company by the merit of chastity alone, if they have not also a life free from all contagion of sin. Tichonius does not interpret this vision of virgins specially, but of the whole Church generally, which the Apostle “betrothes to one husband, to present it a pure virgin to Christ;” and he concludes thus: “He said not, There was no lie in their mouth, but, ‘there was not found;’ as the Apostle says, ‘And this indeed ye were, but ye were washed, and, ‘The iniquity of the unjust will not hurt him, in the day when he shall turn from his iniquity,’ and he can be a virgin, and ‘deceit not be found in his mouth.’ For by virgins he means the chaste and modest.”

6. flying. As he had described the doubtful and varied fight of the Church with the dragon, as she is a sojourner in the age, it remains to assign a due recompence to both the combatants, and shew what punishments await the bad, or what rewards the good. So, then, the preacher who runs hither and thither through the midst of the Church, carries with him the Gospel of the eternal kingdom.

preach. It is fitting that they who are lifted up by a heavenly flight, should also, through preaching, raise up their earthly minds from the seat of their torpidness.

nation. “This Gospel,” He says, “shall be preached in all the world, and then shall the end come.”

7. Fear. Do ye look forward the more to your own salvation, he says, the more speedy is the retribution which awaits you, which is unchangeable for ever. For ye fear the Lord, the Maker of the world, and not the momentary tyranny of the beast.

8. Babylon. He says that the ruinous city of the devil has already fallen; and this may be after the manner of Scripture, which is wont to represent as past that which it knows is inevitably to be fulfilled; or perhaps the proud were cast down by the Lord, when they were puffed up by the devil, as the Psalmist says, “Thou castedst them down, while they were lifted up.”

nations. The ungodly city, which is gathered from all nations, itself makes the nations, that is, its own members, drunk with the wine of error. But the city of the Lord, which cultivates the vine of Sorek, does not desire to “be drunk with wine, wherein is excess,” lest it be deprived of the promised denarius of life.

9. worship. That is, who shall have worshipped the beast, and the head, which was, as it were, slain

mark. By saying, “on his forehead, or on his hand,” he shews that the devil marks some by an unholy profession, but others by practice alone.

10. drink. In that he says, “he also shall drink,” he shews that there is another also who has drunk, so as not to exclude him who, although he is not visibly mingled with the nations, yet worships the beast under the name of Christ. But they are justly laid low by the cup of the Lord, who give to drink the cup of the wrath of fornication, not, according to Jeremiah, that they may vomit forth the malice of a heart which is to be cleansed, but that they may be condemned, and perish by falling asleep in eternal death.

tormented. The saints who reign with the Lord are always able to see the punishment of the wicked, that they may for ever sing the mercies of the Lord, and so render to their deliverer the greater thanks. For the sight of the torments of the wicked does not grieve those who are of the same mind with the just Judge, as neither was the sight of the rest of Lazarus able to cool the rich man who was buried in flames.

11. night. They say that the lion spares a prostrate man. But this beast is fiercer than a lion, and the more he is worshipped, so much the greater punishment does he inflict.

receive. St. Augustine interprets the beast as the ungodly city, and the image of the beast as the likeness of a bird; of those, that is, who are Christians by a deceitful appearance; and the mark, as the note of guilt, which he says is worshipped, and is subject to him, and in agreement with him.

12. patience. Although the beast has vented his rage, yet the saints are not made sad by the temporal suffering which is to be rewarded by eternal bliss. For they see, on the other hand, that their persecutors, who for a time act proudly, suffer eternal punishments with the beast.

13. voice. Beautiful is now the agreement of those who speak. For behold, this one proclaims that the kingdom of the Lord is at hand, that one that the city of the devil is fallen, a third announces the flames of the ungodly, another the rest of the blessed; and he both utters his voice from heaven, and commands it as worthy of eternal memory, to be committed to writing. For “the righteous rejoice because their names are written in heaven,” but the ungodly “are blotted out of the book of the living.”

dead. I thank Thee, O Jesus, Who makest blessed in heaven those who die in Thee on earth, and how much more those who lay down their blissful lives both in and for Thy faith!

labours. As he had said that the ungodly have no rest for ever, so, on the contrary, he shews that the faithful, who are helped by their former works, from henceforth rest, that is, from the time of death. For, “when He has given His beloved sleep, this is the inheritance of the Lord.” But “the sluggard would not plough because of the cold, therefore shall he beg in harvest, and there shall not be given to him.”

14. cloud. Thus far has the voice of the harlot been premised, and it now remains to exhibit the person of the Judge Himself, Who, when He comes to judgment, overshadows the glory of His divinity by a cloud of flesh, that the ungodly “may see Him Whom they pierced.”

crown. He has described above what this cloud is, in the appearance of the woman, and the crown of twelve stars upon her head. But it may also signify the victory of Him Who reigns.

sickle. This is the judicial sentence of separation, which cannot by any means whatever be avoided. For we are within it, whithersoever we attempt to flee, for whatsoever is enclosed by the sickle falls within it.

15. angel. The angels, of whom we read in the Gospel as “the reapers of the earth,” are all sent forth to minister for those who have the inheritance of salvation,” and they take account of the several merits of the Church, and report them daily to the Lord.

reap. Behold, He says, “Through iniquity abounding, the love of many has waxed cold,” and through the burning heat of evils falling upon it, the harvest of the earth has now almost ceased to be green. So, then, for the elect’s sake, the days are shortened, in order that grains already ripe may not fall off. And do thou commit the tares and the chaff to the flames, but the heavenly fruit to the garners of bliss.

17. another. If Christ appeared on the white cloud as the reaper, is the grape-gatherer but the same, finely repeated because of the twofold fruit of the Church? For “He Who sowed seed in His field” also Himself “planted a vineyard in a fruitful place.” But the planting degenerated, because of the negligence of those who kept it.

18. fire. The office of the angels, as Jerome says, is twofold. For some assign rewards to the righteous, while others preside over the several torments; as it is said, “Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a burning fire.” The two angels who proclaim that the harvest is dry, and the corn ripe, may be understood to be the prayers of the Church, which, with a great voice, that is, with a great desire, prays daily that the kingdom of the Lord may come, and with these words.

Thrust in. As the harvest, so also the vintage is partly earthly, partly heavenly. But the maturity of both indicates the end of the world.

ripe. That is, her sins are complete. But the perfection of the good may also be called ripeness. For, as the holy Gregory says, although the end of the world depends on its own course, yet by overtaking such as are more perverse, because they are deservedly overwhelmed in its ruin, it becomes known through them.

19. sickle. He who has the sickle of the reaper has also that of the grape-gatherer. For the judgment is one, and will take place at one time; but in the harvest and the vintage he shews the beginning and the end of the same affliction.

winepress. If this harvest also of the vintage pertain only to the bad, the winepress signifies punishment; but if to the good as well, the treading of the winepress, as the threshing of the floor, crushes what is useless, and proves what is of use. And so the Apostle says that the precious metals are preserved by fire, while the hay and the stubble are consumed, both which are done without the heavenly Jerusalem. But the winepress of wrath is so named in the same form of speech, as it is said, “The Lord delivered him in the evil day.”

20. blood. There went forth vengeance, even to the rulers of the people. For in the last contest there went forth vengeance even to the devil and his angels, because of the blood of the saints which was shed; as it is written, “In blood thou hast sinned, and blood pursueth thee.” Concerning the horses, it has been spoken above.

hundred. That is, through all the four parts of the world. For quaternity is multiplied by itself, as in the four faces with four sides, and the wheels. Tichonius interprets the reaper and the grape-gatherer of the Church, as it becomes glorious after the flames of persecution, and holds the power of binding and loosing. The angel from the temple, or the altar, proclaims the empire of the blood-red Lord, not with open voice, but by the suggestion of the Holy Spirit, Whose operation is in His body, and shews that it is now the time for the bad to be accursed; and he has power over the fire, namely, that which went forth from the mouth of the witnesses, and devoured their adversaries. Thus far concerning the conflict of the Church, and the perfect end of either contest.

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