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On Canticle From Book of Revelation

"Those Who Have Conquered Satan and Evil"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 13, 2005 (Zenit - Here is a translation of the address John Paul II delivered on January 12th at the general audience, which he dedicated to comment on the canticle from the Book of Revelation (11:17;12:10,12).

* * *

1. The hymn just heard descends ideally from heaven. In fact, the Book of Revelation, which proposes it to us, links its first part (see Revelation 11:17-18) to "the twenty-four elders who sat on their thrones before God " (11:16), and in the second stanza (see 12:10-12) to a "loud voice in heaven" (12:10).

We are thus involved in the grandiose representation of the divine court where God and the Lamb, that is Christ, surrounded by the "crown's council," are judging human history according to good and evil, also showing the ultimate goal of salvation and glory. The songs that are scattered in the Book of Revelation have the function of illustrating the topic of the divine lordship which rules the flow, often disconcerting, of human affairs.

2. Significant, in this regard, is the first passage of the hymn put on the lips of the 24 elders who seem to incarnate the divinely chosen people in their two historical stages, the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 Apostles of the Church.

Now, the Lord God Almighty and Eternal has "assumed your great power and have established your reign" (11:17) and the purpose of his entry into history, is not only to block the violent reactions of rebels (see Psalm 2:1,5) but above all to exalt and recompense the just. The latter are described with a series of terms used to delineate the spiritual countenance of Christians. They are "servants" who adhere to the divine law with fidelity; they are "prophets," gifted with the revealed Word which interprets and judges history; they are "saints," consecrated to God and respectful of his name, namely, ready to worship him and to follow his will. Among them are the "small and great," an expression dear to the author of the Book of Revelation (see 13:16; 19:5,18; 20:12) to designate the people of God in its unity and variety.

3. Thus we pass to the second part of our canticle. After the dramatic scene of the woman with child "clothed with the sun" and of the terrible red dragon (see 12:1-9), a mysterious voice intones a hymn of thanksgiving and joy.

The joy stems from the fact that Satan, the ancient adversary, who stood in the heavenly court as "accuser of our brothers" (12:10), as we see him in the Book of Job (see 1:6-11; 2:4-5), was "cast out" from heaven and therefore no longer has great power. He knows that "he has but a short time" (12:12), because history is about to undergo a radical change of liberation from evil and that is why he reacts "in great fury."

On the other side appears the risen Christ, whose blood is principle of salvation (see 12:11). He has received from the Father a royal power over the whole universe; in him are fulfilled "salvation, strength and the kingdom of our God."

To his victory are associated the Christian martyrs who chose the way of the cross, not yielding to evil and its virulence, but commending themselves to the Father and uniting themselves to the death of Christ through a testimony of surrender and courage that led them to "love not their lives even unto death" ([see] ibid.). One seems to hear the echo of Christ's words: "Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life" (John 12:25).

4. The words of the Book of Revelation about those who have conquered Satan and evil "through the blood of the Lamb," resound in a splendid prayer attributed to Simeon, bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon in Persia. Before dying as a martyr with many other companions on April 17, 341, during the persecution of King Sapor II, he addressed the following supplication to Christ:

"Lord, give me this crown: you know how I have desired it because I have loved you with all my soul and my life. I will be happy to see you and you will give me rest. ... I want to persevere heroically in my vocation, fulfill with fortitude the task that was assigned to me and be an example to all your people of the East. ... I shall receive life that knows not pain, or concern, or anguish, or persecutor, or persecuted, or oppressor, or oppressed, or tyrant, or victim; there I shall no longer see the king's menace, nor the terror of prefects; no one who takes me to court and continues to terrify me terrifies me, no one who drags me or frightens me. The wounds of my feet will heal in you, O way of all pilgrims; the exhaustion of my members will find rest in you, Christ, chrism of our unction. In you, chalice of our salvation, sadness will vanish from my heart; in you, our consolation and joy, the tears of my eyes will be wiped away" (A. Hamman, "Preghiere dei Primi Cristiani" [Early Christian Prayers], Milan, 1955, pp. 80-81

[At the end of the audience, one of the Pope's aides read the following summary in English:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We continue today with our reflection on the Liturgy of Evening Prayer. The passage we just heard from the Book of Revelation offers the theme of God's dominion over human events. In the resurrection of Jesus, the Father guarantees that at the end of time good will triumph. The martyrs are associated with Christ's victory; they have chosen the way of the cross to witness their faith and love for him.

The canticle from Revelation presents this truth in a splendid vision. God the Father and Jesus Christ, surrounded by the divine court, judge the history of the world according to good and evil, showing it the ultimate goal of salvation and glory.

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking pilgrims present at this audience, especially those from Finland, New Zealand and the United States of America. Upon you and your loved ones, I invoke the Lord's blessings of health and joy. Happy New Year!

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Keywords

Canticle, Revelation, Pope, Satan, Evil

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