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Apocalypse and Eucharist
(Towards a non-sacrificial understanding of the Revelation of John)

Autor:Sandler Willibald
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Kategorieartikel
Abstrakt:Die Offenbarung des Johannes ist voll überbordender Gewalt, die offenbar von Gott und seinen Engelsmächten ausgelöst wird. Wie geht damit René Girards und Raymund Schwagers „nichtsakrifizielle“ Deutung der Bibel zusammen, wonach Gewalt niemals direkt von Gott ausgeht? Oder muss man das letzte Buch der Bibel als einen Rückfall in sakrifizielles Rachedenken preisgeben? Nach der Diskussion von zwei Lösungsansätzen schlägt der vorliegende Aufsatz vor, den Zorn Gottes und den „Zorn des Lammes“ (Offb 6,16) als eine Erfahrungsgestalt von Gottes Liebe für Menschen, die in Gewalt verstrickt sind, zu verstehen. Gott handelt auch im Kontext der Apokalypse. Wo die apokalyptische Gewalt überbordet, hat Gott sich nicht zurückgezogen; im Gegenteil: Er treibt seine liebende Selbstoffenbarung („Kairós“) gegenüber einer verhärteten Welt bis ins Äußerste. Damit wird an Orten extremster Gottesverweigerung nochmals Heilsmöglichkeit eröffnet, – allerdings mit der unvermeidlichen „Nebenwirkung“ einer Potenzierung von Destruktivität dort, wo der Kairós erneut ausgeschlagen wird. Irritierende Texte über die Rachewünsche von Christen (Offb 6,9-11; vgl. Offb 18,4-8) können von daher als Bitte verstanden werden, dass Gott sein Heilswerk endlich zu Ende führen möge, – nicht mit Vernichtung, sondern mit neu eröffneter Umkehrmöglichkeit für Feinde). Eine solche entschärfende Interpretation der Johannesapokalypse ist rein texthermeneutisch nicht gedeckt. Sie gewinnt aber Rückhalt durch eine liturgische Hermeneutik, – indem die Johannesoffenbarung konsequent im nichtsakrifiziellen Kontext der Eucharistie gelesen wird.
Publiziert in:Nach einem Vortrag, gehalten auf dem Symposium des Colloquiums on Violence and Religion (COV&R) 2008 zum Thema "Catastrophe and Conversion. Political Thinking for the New Millennium", Riverside - University of California, 18.06.2008 - 21.06.2008.
Datum:2008-07-01

Inhalt

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1. „Does Eucharist cause Apocalypse?" Three arguments for a strange conjecture

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Does Eucharist cause Apocalypse? That means: When people celebrate mass, and when they really do this, will this service contribute to shatter the foundations of this world? The question seems absurd. How can anybody even hit on such an idea? Nevertheless there are some hints.

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First the early Christians obviously dealt with stuff like that. According to the Didache, which contains the earliest Eucharistic prayer and which is dated the early second century, Christians prayed that Christ should come and that this world should pass away.[1] Though, this conviction has dwindled parallel to the disappointment of the feverish longing that the powerful parousia of the risen Lord would come soon in an chronological sense. Second this strange apocalyptic hope of the Didache seems to be supported by the theory of René Girard. According to Girard it was Jesus who, by His crucifixion, caused an apocalyptic dynamics for the world.[2] When Girard ist right, and when Eucharist is the very place to encounter Jesus, then Eucharist should cause apocalypse. Third the Revelation of John unfolds exactly this connection.

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2. Heavenly liturgy and apocalyptic catastrophes

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The chapters 4 and 5 of the Book of Revelation take us amidst a heavenly liturgy. The gates of heaven stand open and John the seer is grasped by the Holy Spirit and lifted upwards. A throne is appearing, with the eternal God seated on it, obliquely referred to as someone incomprehensible, unspeakable, and indescribable. The throne is surrounded by twenty-four elders - also sitting on thrones in white robes - and by four living creatures, „each of them with six wings, full of eyes around and inside" (Rev 4:8). Day and night without ceasing they sing: „Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty".

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The one seated on the throne is holding a scroll with seven seals, and apparently no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth is able to open the scroll or to look into it. This makes the seer weep bitterly (Rev 5:4), until he discerns a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered (5:6). The Lamb receives the sealed book, and as this happens, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fall before the Lamb, singing a new song: „Your are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation." (5:9) And the voice of many angels, numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, are singing with full voice, „Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" (5:12) ..." And „every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea" is joining in.

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Accompanied by this jubilation, whose hymns remind us to parts of the Eucharistic prayer, the Lamb begins to open the seals. But what will happen as a consequence? Endless waves of destruction and terror are pouring out all over the world.

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3. The Revelation of John: Irritations in three trouble areas

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The Revelation of John is a book bursting with violence, wrath, and retaliation. And in this way it reflects on God and also on the Christians, as they appear longing for bloody vengeance. It is possible to focus this challenge on three trouble areas:

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First, God and even the Lamb appear as agents of wrath and violence. The Lamb, standing as if it had been slaughtered, does not only trigger disaster. The kings and all the powerful of the earth panic by the „wrath of the Lamb" (Rev 6:16). And even the incomprehensible, unspeakable, and indescribable God seems to be involved in excessive violence: The seven bowls that surpass the seven seals and the seven trumpets in the amount of resulting destruction are described as „full of the wrath of God"[3].

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Second, the wrath of God causes inconceivable pain and agony to His foes. This applies to the temporally limited punishment, for example by the apocalyptic locusts that were sent against everybody who does not wear the seal of God on his forehead:

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„They were allowed to torture them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torture was like the torture of a scorpion when it stings someone. And in those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them."(Rev 9:5-6).

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The timely limited punishment is finally substituted by the sentence to eternal agony: „And the devil ... was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." (Rev 20:10) - But not only the epitomes of Evil are ultimately thrown into the tormenting fire lake but also everyone, „whose name [is] not found written in the book of life" (20:15).

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Third, the holy rest of confident Christians appears to be waiting impatiently for a bloody revenge to all who have done harm to them:

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„When he [the Lamb] opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given; they cried out with a loud voice, ‚Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?‘ They were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number would be complete both of their fellow servants and of their brothers and sisters, who were soon to be killed as they themselves had been killed." (Rev 6:9-11)

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Vengeance is only postponed. Later a voice from heaven will urge the last Christians of Babylon:

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„Come out of her, my people, so that you do not take part in her sins, and so that you do not share in her plagues; 5 for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. 6 Render to her as she herself has rendered, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double draught for her in the cup she mixed. 7 As she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, so give her a like measure of torment and grief. Since in her heart she says, 'I rule as a queen; I am no widow, and I will never see grief,‘ 8 therefore her plagues will come in a single day-- pestilence and mourning and famine-- and she will be burned with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who judges her." (Rev 18:4-8)

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4. A Girardian interpretation of John´s Revelation and its limits

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Mimetic theory is - on the one hand - highly critical on such violent accounts of God, as it suspects them to be sacrificial projections, which means a relapse to sacrificial Christianity which would safeguard Christian unity by identifying enemies and projecting violence on God.[4] On the other hand René Girard developed a non-sacrificial reading of apocalyptic texts, which grants them a high capacity of truth and of analytical persuasiveness. In this sense apocalyptic texts describe processes of self-judgment triggered by the uncovering of sacrificial mechanisms that are apt to confine violence. In „Things hidden" Girard demonstrated this interpretation regarding apocalyptic texts in the Gospels.[5] He claimed that these texts never attribute violence directly to God.

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Does this hermeneutics of a non-sacrificial reading of apocalyptic texts also fit to the Revelation of John? Girard had claimed this in principle, but did not work it out. If we consider the exemplary texts regarding God´s wrath, the anguish of His foes and the Christian´s claim to vengeance, it seems highly questionable whether this will work. Recently J.A. Jackson and Allen Redmon had tried to offer proof to the possibility of a non-sacrificial interpretation of the apocalypse of John.[6] According to Girard they consequently refer to the „logic of the Lamb" as a hermeneutic key, when they discuss the various waves of violence, triggered by heavenly actions. That means that it is always the strictly non-violent Lamb which is decisive for the apocalyptic occurrences. In the first part, when Jackson and Redmon discuss the consequences of the Lamb´s opening of the seven seals, they argue convincingly. But later, when they are confronted with the exaggerating violence towards the end of the biblical book, they can only keep to their approach by applying a doubtful method of interpretation. Discussing the urge to Christians for double repayment (Rev 18:6), as quoted above, they conclude: „This translation of human suffering into a language of ‚divine justice‘ tempts the reader to accept the suffering community´s mythological construction and to participate in their response."[7]. Than they try to defuse this temptation by referring to the preceding advice that Christians should leave the sin city of Babylon, which would mean that they should „refuse to participate in its mechanism." The latter may be right, but it does not defuse the urge to double repayment. So my impression is that despite a promising beginning, the essay of Jackson and Redmon eventually supports the suspicion that a non-sacrificial reading of John´s apocalypse cannot be held in a credible way.

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5. Why not abandon the Revelation of John?

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Before we search other ways out for a non-sacrificial reading of the Revelation of John, let us consider why we should. Why should we not abandon this book by conceding that it just proves a relapse to sacrificial thinking (just as Girard had initially done with Epistle to the Hebrews)[8]? I think, there are serious reasons against, also apart from the specifically theological problem that Revelation has been confirmed as a canonical biblical book at least in Western church.

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The mimetic hermeneutics of René Girard is exceedingly subtle. Especially regarding apocalyptic texts the differences between misleading sacrificial and highly elucidating non-sacrificial texts become minimal. Eventually they are reduced to the criterion, whether violence is directly attributed to God or not. But even this criterion is not fully reliable. On the one hand, also a non-sacrificial text may attribute violence to God, only by mirroring the sacrificial horizon of the addressees.[9] On the other hand the absence or even a renunciation of violence provides no safe criterion for a non-sacrificial logic. Rather it is specific to sacrificial logic that violent aspects are suppressed, shifted or postponed. So the only waterproof criterion for a non-sacrificial logic is that renunciation of violence is persevered to the very last. So Girard´s whole non-sacrificial reading of the Gospels would prove wrong, when in the end the slaughtered Lamb would apply violence to destroy the foes of God. The Revelation of John deals with the ultimate end of all creation. Here it will show up whether Girard´s hermeneutics of the cross can be held out to the last.[10]

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6. A possible strategy for a non-sacrificial interpretation of Revelation - and its specific problem

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Facing the fact that the book of Revelation is full of heavenly violent action, a non-sacrificial interpretation can resort to a distinction between heaven and God.[11] Namely the angels are shown as agents of wrath and destruction. But though they appear as instruments of God´s will, they are part of a creation which has eventually to be purified. In the end there will be a new earth and even a new heaven (cf. Rev 21:1).

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A consequent discrimination between heavenly powers, for whom sacrificial involvement will be conceded, and God himself, who is kept rid of all violence, seems to be possible, because the Book of Revelation stresses on the incomprehensibility of the one, sitting on the throne. He is not described as acting, not even as speaking - until the end, when he says: „See, I am making all things new" (Rev 21:5) - so he can be kept without recourse.

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But such a hermeneutic operation will cause side effects. It runs out to the view that all initiative is confined to sinners, who are acting out their self-judgment. This is completely contrary to the main thrust of the Book of Revelation, which comforts the prosecuted Christians that in all the tragedies they are suffering, the law of action is completely in God´s hand, so that they will be kept under His shelter at any time. When a „Girardian theology" would only amount to the claim that the true God has nothing in common with violence, then the more people would be stricken by violence the less they would be embraced by God.

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Against that, the theory of Girard is far more subtle. Though the position just described represents one of his crucial concerns, another point has to be taken into account, which seems to amount to a seemingly contradictory conclusion: As the presence of God and His truth weakens sacrificial mechanisms that are apt to confine violence by the help of violence, the experience of increasing violence may almost be an indication that God is near. So for the perception of people who are entangled in sacrificial violence, God has very much in common with violence. When they associate God with violence, they correspond to an experience which is quite accurate. Does this mean that sacrificial logic is right? No!

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In fact, for people entangled in violence, there exist two completely opposite ways of bringing together God and violence. On the one hand there exists a divinisation of violence, according to a sacrificial logic. On the other hand, there is the experience of the true divine, which - for people being entangled in sacrificial violence - will be accompanied by the experience of unveiled and released violence. Divinisation of violence and „violentisation" of the Divine are two totally different ways of bringing God and violence together. While the first is bound to sacrificial logic, the second indicates an adequate, non-sacrificial perspective. I will argue that the latter is supported by the Revelation of John.

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7. Wrath as a mode of appearance of God´s love

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It is a romantic illusion that the encounter with the true God of love must necessarily cause a blissful experience. According to the Gospels the experience of the true God of love is mediated by the encounter with Jesus Christ. For the people who met Jesus, this encounter contained the best what love could provide, - namely the experience to be loved, in the strong and original meaning of this word: In the face of Jesus people could experience to be accepted by God without any conditions,[12] just as they were created by God, - in His image and likeness.

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Mind you, this experience of pure love has demanding side effects: In so far as achievements were put up to safeguard substitute justifications for ones being, they are rendered useless and even as an obstacle for an authentic being, which can only be received as a gift of love. So the experience of God´s true love necessarily causes a critical and possibly painful view on inadequate parts of ones own identity. Due to this double view on ones true and false identity the encounter with God´s love both facilitates and compels a decision for or against God. Man is set free to choose the promising experience of true identity, but this implies a decided self-distancing to the improper aspects of ones biography. Especially rich and gifted people may be tempted to cling to the advantageous epitomes of an attractive identity. Insofar as they give in to this temptation the originally agreeable experience of God´s love becomes threatening. The experience of true identity - caused by true love - establishes an awkward knowledge that the preferred values are void. A crisis is provoked which - without repentance - can only be mastered by committing oneself deeper to the unfounded values and by combatting the person, who by his love, lead to the exposing of the preferred values. Therefore Jesus had to be killed by those who were not willing to respond adequately to his message.

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The specific time of encounter with God´s love, of liberation to a deliberate decision for or against God, and - as a consequence - of salvific grace or of self-judgment, is named kairós in biblical Greek language. As we have seen, this kairós can cause deepened blindness and increased violence, if it is missed. Due to a rejected kairós people deliver themselves to blindness and violence, which may drive them to a disastrous self-destruction. As Paul has done in Romans,[13] these effects may be described as God´s wrath. They imply disastrous consequences, which in a sacrificial perspective were attributed to a God, who punishes sinners wrathfully. But as we see, these consequences are effected not by God but by the sinners[14] themselves, though in the face of God. From there God´s wrath can be reconstructed as a specific mode of appearance of God´s love, as it is experienced by sinners.

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This interpretation of God´s love and wrath leads to a dramatic understanding of redemption. As is shown in the life of Jesus, God´s love is primarily addressed to sinners, e.g. to persons who have once to a certain amount said no to God´s love and who are entangled in the consequences of this rejection. The effect of God´s love is the rise of freedom, - the freedom to say Yes or No to God. The ‚Yes‘ wipes out sin, whereas a ‚No‘ leads to an increased entanglement in sin (in the form of blindness and active violence). The increased sin can only be broken by a deepened engagement of God´s love, which, when rejected again, multiplies sin once more. This process of worsening must be comprehended also in its collective dimensions: as structures of sin and of evil, which harden by missed kairoí and reduce the scope for a loving and forgiving conduct. The powers of this world seem to prevail.

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Our interpretation of God´s wrath as a mode of appearance of God´s love can explain everyday-experiences with unobtrusive kairoí as well as the ultimate worsening which is unfolded by John´s apocalypse. This way irritating texts like the following can be understood in a non-sacrificial way:

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„When [the Lamb] opened the sixth seal, [...] the kings of the earth and the magnates and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‚Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" (Rev 6:15-17)

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The face of the one seated on the throne is not at all terrifying per se. We must imagine it as pure love in an unimaginably high concentration. True love contains truth and so the sinner who is faced by God´s love is confronted with the painful truth of his own existence. Humans who are deeply involved in sin will experience God´s love as an unbearable fire, so that they may „call the mountains and rocks, ‚Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?‘ - God´s wrath and the „wrath of the Lamb" are nothing but the mode of appearance of God´s love as it is experienced by sinners, at least in so far as they flee the consequences of this experience.

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What is the Book of Revelation about? It aims at the final revelation of God´s face, with the intention to purify and to prepare humans for the ultimate bliss of heaven: „They will see his face" (Rev 22:4). This purification presupposes a „great divorce" - not necessarily between good and bad humans but between good and bad in humans.[15] This painful differentiation is worked by Jesus, by the Lamb, who stands as if slaughtered, by the Word of God, which is sharp like a sword.

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„... his name is called The Word of God. [...] From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty." (Rev 19:11-15)

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Against all outer appearance of this text it must be emphasized: The strikes of the sword are in no way violent or destructive regarding persons as such. But they will expose everything inadequate, people are identifying with. And as long as they are identified with these inadequate aspects, the strikes of the sword will hurt them in the centre of their identity. From this perspective Rev 19:11-15 with all its harshness proves precise. Without any cutback it fits to our interpretation that God´s wrath is nothing but a mode of appearance of God´s love to sinners.

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8. God´s eschatological action as a „mastery of kairos"

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With the understanding of God´s wrath as a mode of his love we can stick to the central idea that God´s acting is nothing but true love, free from all destructive violence. Without any restrictions we can adopt the view of René Girard and of Raymund Schwager that God´s judgment is self-judgment of the sinners. But we can also correspond to the leading idea of John´s Apocalypse that even in dire straits all initiative ultimately is completely on God´s side. What is the essence of God´s acting, according to a non-sacrificial reading of John´s apocalypse? It is His decision, to confront a sinful world with His undiminished presence. This causes a dramatic succession of kairoí by which good and bad become separated in an uncompromising way. So - as we have described above - all persisting sin will be driven to its utmost consequences.

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It is specific for pre-apocalyptic times that God´s judging presence - in the sense of His provoking of self-judgment by His loving presence - is held back.[16] To a certain amount God veils His face and so people can remain in a twilight of indecisiveness. And there are times of dramatic kairói, where people are forced to decisions literally between life and death, between martyrdom and murder, between heaven and hell.[17]

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In any case the judgment between salvation and disaster is on man´s side in the mode of self-judgment. Yet God is never otiose. The ultimate law of action is in His hand for He has the mastery of kairos. That means that He is the one to decide when and to which amount people are led into a situation where it depends on them whether they say yes and no to the appearing God. Theology can analyse what may happen under conditions of a kairós. But it has no means to say when and to what extent God´s initiative of kairós will occur.[18]

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Apocalypse is time for final judgment, it is preparation for eternity. The seven-sealed book of history and the sword of kairós are in God´s hand, and He gives both to His Son, to His Word, to the Lamb, which is standing as if slaughtered. So we can be confident that He draws the sword of kairós (cf. Rev 19:15) exactly the way that every human being will receive the maximum chance to get saved in His love.

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9. Resolving the three trouble areas

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Two of the three trouble areas, which I have located for the Book of Revelation above, have obviously been resolved: God´s wrath and the pain, God´s foes are suffering. God´s wrath proved to be a mode of appearance of his love. And the pains of the sinners turned out to be the fire which threatens to burn down all inauthentic aspects of ones live, - a fire which becomes unbearable to persons who receive God´s love and though want to stick to the seemingly advantageous but void aspects of their existence. This approach is not new, it is completely in accordance with the non-sacrificial reading as proposed by Girard and carried on by Schwager and also by Jackson and Redmon. The surplus shown here is that the concept of self-justification corresponds to the predominance of God´s action, as it is expounded throughout the Revelation of John.[19] I have demonstrated this correspondence by two steps, first by identifying God´s wrath as a mode of His love (which is in any case a mode of God´s action), second by attributing to Him a mastery of kairós (e.g. of the modes of concrete application of His love).

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But what about the third trouble area, which consists in the Christians´ longing for vengeance? As we have seen, there exist two especially problematic texts in this respect.

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„When he [the Lamb] opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given; they cried out with a loud voice, ‚Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?‘ They were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number would be complete both of their fellow servants and of their brothers and sisters, who were soon to be killed as they themselves had been killed." (Rev 6:9-11)

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Jackson and Redmon argue quite legitimately that „the martyrs are told to wait until the mechanism of violence exhausts itself"[20] and that „the Lamb does not attempt to empathize with the cries of the martyrs"[21]. Jackson and Redmon claim that the urge of the martyrs „betrays the martyrs´ own earthly testimony, as they quickly appropriate the language of victimizers"[22]. Though this interpretation is not compelling, there is a time of waiting where a process of purification could be possible. This scope for purification is no more available for the second text which stands near the end of the Book of Revelation:

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„Come out of her [i.e. Babylon], my people, so that you do not take part in her sins, and so that you do not share in her plagues; 5 for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. 6 Render to her as she herself has rendered, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double draught for her in the cup she mixed. 7 As she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, so give her a like measure of torment and grief. Since in her heart she says, 'I rule as a queen; I am no widow, and I will never see grief,‘ 8 therefore her plagues will come in a single day-- pestilence and mourning and famine-- and she will be burned with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who judges her." (Rev 18:4-8)

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Here it is a heavenly voice which seems to urge the last Christians of Babylon to even double retaliation. There are no hints which would indicate or even allow a further purification of the Christians or of this heavenly voice. And nothing allows to assume that the Christians would have resisted this urge, by perhaps realizing that this voice would only tempt them. So we have only two alternatives: Either we find an interpretation of this text which corresponds to a non-sacrificial reading of John´s Apocalypse or we must concede that the last biblical book ascribes destructive forms of wrath and retaliation to God´s will, namely in an important passage rather near to the glorious end of the book.[23] Corresponding to my goal of a non-sacrificial interpretation of John´s Apocalypse I will have to attempt a non-violent interpretation of this urge to double retaliation.

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First it can be claimed that in no way the last confident Christians of Babylon are urged to retaliate by applying violence. The only thing they should do is to leave the town. This should prevent them from getting involved in their - obviously multiplying - sins and from being beaten by the plagues which the godless Babylonians were doomed to receive. But when the Christians were urged to leave the citizens, how should they repay them their deeds?[24] The only way could be by leaving the town. By withdrawing from them they abandon them to self-judgment.

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Nevertheless there remains another objection: In our passage the Christians seem to be encouraged to wish retaliation. Though this retaliation is carried out by the wrongdoers themselves, the wish for damnation compromises the Christians as well as the heavenly voice which - obviously as a mediator of God´s will - requires this unreconciled conduct. In the following I will try to give an answer to this objection.

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As we have already seen, the disaster of notorious sinners is not directly worked by God, but by the sinners themselves in the way of a self-judgment. Moreover this self-judgment is not meant as definite damnation but as a detour, apt to prepare sinners for a turning back, by being confronted with the destructive nature of the godless ways they chose. Actually self-judgment serves a positive goal and - in this way - is desirable in a manner of love.

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So a non-sacrificial reading of Rev 18:6 could fall back on the possibility that the urge for retaliation is completely embraced by the wish that - in this only possible way - God´s love will do its saving work. As God´s love appears necessarily as painful wrath to sinners, the claim for the carrying through of God´s love means unavoidably to claim that sinners will be confronted with the full amount of their atrocity. But can we really interpret Rev 18 in the sense that Christians plead for double retribution only to invoke a last chance of salvation for their torturers? I think a mere textual hermeneutics won´t allow such an interpretative operation. And too near it would be to an ideological disguising of doubtful ambitions.

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10. A liturgical hermeneutics of John´s Apocalypse

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But imagine people who regularly confront themselves with God´s love also in its painful consequences, by praying that, where they would still resist God´s will (perhaps without knowing), God´s judgment should rather come on themselves, for they know that this painful process would be the only way to enter God´s kingdom? What if persons with such a practice would invoke judgment also for their tormentors? I think, under such conditions a honest plead that God may retribute to the foes in order that they might be saved, can no more be excluded. These conditions are realized for Christians, when they celebrate Eucharist in a worthy way, that means, when they take into account that they are referring to the crucified Lord.[25] Otherwise, when they „eat and drink without discerning the body", they „eat and drink judgment against themselves." (1 Cor 11:29)

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In this context the fact becomes crucial, that the author of the book of Revelation requires his addressees, that they should read the book in the context oft liturgy. „Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near" (Rev 1:3). As biblical scholars show, this demand to a loud reading of the book refers to the Eucharist.[26] And the Eucharist provides a practical hermeneutics, which will grant a non-sacrificial reading of John´s apocalypse, if Eucharist is performed in a non-sacrificial way. For centuries these conditions were given at most in a reduced way. I think today the time is ripe for a non-sacrificial understanding of the Eucharist as well as of the book of Revelation. And so both - Eucharist and Revelation - can support each other to disclose the full power of the Gospel.

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So I hold the opinion that a non-sacrificial reading even of Rev 18:6 is possible. Though this interpretation requires an incessant practice of being confronted with „the Lamb, standing as if slaughtered" and its non-sacrificial logic. This practice is supplied by the Eucharistic liturgy. As the Book of Revelation demands to be read within liturgy, it provides a practical orientated, liturgical hermeneutics which prepares the conditions for a non-sacrificial reading, which would not be justifiable on the basis of a mere textual hermeneutics.

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11. Does Eucharist cause apocalypse?

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My attempt at a non-sacrificial interpretation of the Book of Revelation has led us from Apocalypse to Eucharist, according to the demand of its author, that the book should be read within the liturgy of Eucharist. I have argued that the practice of Eucharist would provide a practical hermeneutics according to the non-sacrificial logic of the Lamb, whose being slaughtered forms the very centre of Eucharist. But how should the Eucharist be performed so that it could meet the demands, which we claimed for a liturgical hermeneutics? First it should be deeply supported by a non-sacrificial understanding of the Sacrifice of the Mass. Liturgical renewal and a renewed theology of the Eucharist in the 20th century have paved the way to such an understanding.

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Another question: What would the practice of a Eucharistic liturgy look like, which would be determined by an adequate reading of the book of Revelation, as its author had demanded? Certainly it would be a form of Eucharist, which would regain the faded eschatological dimension. Christians shaped by such a liturgy would come near the biblical claim to live in this world without belonging to this world.[27] Their citizenship would be in heaven (Phi 3:20), and just in this way they would cause a strong impact to this world, for they would be able to live in a real Christian freedom, without being caught in mimetic entanglement.

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Finally I should return do my initial question: Does Eucharist cause apocalypse? The preceding considerations suggest the idea of a more powerful Eucharistic practice which could cause something of a mimetic crisis in the world similar to the apocalyptic impact brought about by Jesus Christ. Nevertheless I would argue that in a strict sense the answer to my initial question should be No, because there is no necessary causal connection, as if apocalypse would break out, when Christians would celebrate Eucharist wholeheartedly. As I have pointed out in chapter 8, God and the Lamb alone provide the course of „last things". They are the sovereign masters of kairós. So the word of the risen Jesus in Acts applies also to the apocalyptic aspects of Eucharist: „It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Act 1:7f).

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Notes

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[1] Cf. Geoffry Wainwright, Eucharist and Eschatology. London 1973, 68.

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[2] Cf. René Girard, Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World. London 1987, 180-216.

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[3] Rev15:7; cf. 16:1; 15:1

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[4] Cf. R. Girard, Things hidden, n.2.

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[5] Cf. n.2.

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[6] J. A. Jackson / Allen A. Redmon, And They Sang A New Song - Reading Johns Revelation, In: Contagion Vol 12-13 (2006) 99-114.

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[7] Jackson/Redmon (footnote 6), p. 110.

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[8] Cf. Girard, Things hidden (fn. 2) 227-231. Later, under the influence of R. Schwager, Girard accepted the Epistle to the Hebrews. Cf. René Girard, Mimetische Theorie und Theologie. In: J. Niewiadomski / W. Palaver (Hg.), Vom Fluch und Segen der Sündenböcke. Thaur 1995, 15-29.

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[9] Girard discusses the parable of the tenants of the vineyard, which he prefers in the version of Matthew, where the ultimate violent retaliation is not attributed directly to God by Jesus but by the - sacrificial - judgement of the interlocutors. Though Girard is not willing to reject the versions of Mark and Luke, where Jesus attributes the violent judgment to God. He defends the text by speaking of „simply a rhetorical effect", of „minor defects" which „have managed to creep into the text" (Things hidden, 188) and of an obligation for Jesus „to speak their [e.g. the listeners̓] language up to a certain point and take into account illusions that cannot yet be eradicated", for „the audience can only approach the truth if it is still partly clothed in myth" (ibd. 189).

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[10] Of course, when John̓s Revelation as a text that faces this crucial problem would fail by falling back to sacrificial logic, this fact would not disprove Girard̓s reading of the Gospel necessarily. But John̓s Apocalypse poses a problem which must be solved by Girard.

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[11] This approach was pursued by Raymund Schwager, Must there be Scapegoats? Violence and Redemption in the Bible. San Francisco et al. 1987, 218.

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[12] In „Jesus in the Drama of Salvation" Raymund Schwager has shown how the unconditioned initial message (in the first act of Jesus̓ proclamation of the kingdom of God) fits together with very demanding consequences (as outlined in the second act of Jesus̓ judging words. Cf. R. Schwager, Jesus in the Drama of Salvation. Toward a Biblical Doctrine of Redemption. New York: Crossroad Publishing Company 1999.

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[13] Cf. Rom 1:18-32.

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[14] Let us define a sinner as a person, who rejects God̓s love in an experience of kairós.

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[15] Cf. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theodramatik. Band IV: Das Endspiel. Einsiedeln 1983, 240-243; 287f.

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[16] Cf. 2 Thess 2:1-12 and Wolfgang Palvers exposition to the „katechón" in: W. Palaver, Hobbes and the Katéchon: The Secularization of Sacrificial Christianity. In: Contagion (1995), 57-74.

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[17] The Third Reich was such a nearly apocalyptic time for several peoples.

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[18] This applies to „everyday"-experiences of grace, but also to the acme of crisis in apocalypse: „But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Mt 24:36.

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[19] Approaches to this „surplus" can be found in Raymund Schwager, Scapegoats (cf. footnote 11) 226. Here Schwager addresses the activity of the word of God in the process of self-justification. The word of God is closely related to the activity of God̓s love.

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[20] Jackson/Redmon, cf. footnote 6, p. 106.

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[21] Jackson/Redmon, cf. footnote 6, p. 107.

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[22] Jackson/Redmon, cf. footnote 6, p. 106.

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[23] As I have stated above, I think that at this point the interpretation of Jackson and Redmon fails.

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[24] This question could be the reason that exegetes tend to split the text into to seperate parts, so that Rev 18:6-8 is not addressed to the Christians but to another agent, possibly an angel of vengeance. Cf. J. Roloff, Die Offenbarung des Johannes. Zürich 32001, 175f. The problems which lead to this rough operation of literary criticism can be solved by our interpretation, so that the text can be understood as a whole, like it is preferred after detailed discussion by D. E. Aune, Revelation (Word Biblical Commentary, 3 volumes). Nashville 1997-1998. [STO: NT S78] 993f.

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[25] But do Christians really pray for being judged? Certainly not in a direct way. But when they ardently pray that the Kingdom of God may come, they will affirm also the conditions which are necessary that their prayer will become true. Part of these conditions is a judgment which cuts off everything which cannot persist in the face of God̓s love. Christians know that this judgment will also concerns themselves. But it is not only a judgment of every single person but also a judgment of the world as a whole. This is addressed by the Christian belief in purgatory, which in fact will be partly anticipated in this world. In this sense according to the Didache the early Christians prayed that this world should pass away. Cf. footnote nr. 1.

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[26] Biblical scholars find a lot of indications especially in the beginning and the end of Rev., that this demand refers to liturgical reading. Cf. Hahn.

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[27] Cf. John 17:11.15-17.

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