Thursday, August 10, 2006

Apocalypse, Soon?

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is threatening the United States and Israel with annihilation, possibly as soon as August 22nd.

See this article, Apocalypse Now?, by Joel C. Rosenberg at National Review Online, who comments on an article August 22, by Bernard Lewis at Opinion Journal.

Apparently, President Ahmadinejad thinks that the end of the world is coming soon, and that he thinks that he can hasten the end of the world and trigger the return of a savior, the “Hidden Imam”. Iran has an extensive program to develop nuclear weapons and missle technology, and has been seeking ready-made weapons.

Apocalyptic thinking is common in western religion. In the United States, Evangelical Protestants often emphasize the end-times, with many exciting fictional presentations, such as the Left Behind series and the Bible Code, as well as many speculative readings of the Book of Revelation. Highly similar kinds of thinking exist in Judaism and Islam, where the End of the World is not only greatly hoped for, but is a goal to be pursued.

While exciting, this kind of speculation is highly subjective and varying, and I think that trying to bring the End upon us is probably an extremely grave mortal sin.

I became drawn to Catholicism partially because of its attitude towards Revelation and the End Times. It neither dismisses it as does Liberal Christianity, nor does it wildly speculate about it like the Evangelicals. According to Catholic thinking, the end of the world will come, but we don't know when; Christ Himself said that it will come like a thief in the night, and we must always be prepared. We may hear of "wars and rumors of war and of earthquakes in divers places", but the End is not yet near. And almost certainly the end of the world for each of us personally will come before the final end, which means that we must strive to remain in God's graces at all times.

The Book of Revelation is hard to understand outside of the context of ancient Christianity. Clearly it is symbolic, but to the Catholic it is more than that: it contains archetypes or Platonic Forms of the pefection in Heaven that is reflected, shadowed, or imaged here on Earth in the Mass. The form of Mass, especially that before the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, and traditional church architecture, are modeled after the archetypes in the Book of Revelation.

We use the term 'apocalypse' to mean a great global war ending the world, but that is not its meaning in Greek. Apocalypse means revelation, but more precisely 'unveiling'. But it is a particular kind of unveiling: it is the removal of the bridal veil in the marriage chamber, just before the union of the lover and beloved. The Book of Revelation is about a heavenly marriage feast, where the Church (and each of our souls) is the Bride, and Christ is the Groom, and the anticipation of when they will become of one flesh, a fulfillment of the Old Testament Song of Songs. That is such an overwhelingly positive and joyful image compared to the mainstream 'War of Armageddon' view of Revelation.

What should be done about Iran? I don't think that most of us are able to do anything in the secular sense, but spiritually we are always to remain prepared for the worst, while praying for the best.

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