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Education - The Revelation To John - A challenge and a message of hope!
That which is first in order of intention with God is last in order of execution; the meaning of "first creation" is only to be found in "new creation"; the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse) explains Genesis (1-3) (R. Guelluy). This means that eschatology is vital to catechesis; it must permeate everything and not be confined to one small compartment neatly labelled the four last things or the end of the world. It is especially necessary for a valid catechesis on the virtue of hope, the most forgotten and misunderstood of all the virtues.
In the past our young people recited glibly enough: 0 my God, I hope in thee for grace and for glory... But then they hoped for so many other things as well! Success in examinations, a scintillating social life, with-it clothes etc., etc.. They hoped for so much in the natural order that the supernatural order often got pushed to one side; death was an unpleasant reality that would have to be faced one day, but not yet! It was looked upon as morbid and in bad taste to speak of death in a catechesis intended to prepare them for life. Today a lot of that has changed; indeed, many young people now feel they belong to the hope-less generation! Why do well in examinations when the chances of getting a job are practically nil; why look forward to a future which only promises a nuclear holocaust; why bring children into a world which has nothing to offer them but despair, destruction and death! Both generations would probably agree that heaven (if it exists at all) is a far-off place beyond the galaxies where the good will pass a boring eternity twanging on a harp (not even an electric guitar) with only God to look at!
That the last days are already here, and have been since the Resurrection; that the life of grace is already the beginning of the life of glory; that the day-to-day struggle against sin and temptation is already the first-fruits of death and resurrection for the individual; that, although the world cannot see it, the victory is being won NOW! These ideas can be new, strange and terribly exciting. Not for nothing has the Book of Revelation been called the biblical text par excellencefor young people on account of its message of hope in ultimate victory over seemingly overwhelming odds.
We must bear in mind, however, that the Book of Revelation is strong meat exegetically and needs careful preparation if it is to yield up its much-needed message of hope to our young people. This preparation will necessarily include some understanding of apocalypse as a literary genre; the articles in this issue will be helpful here. A way into the text of John could then be through one of the works of art it has inspired; the Adoration of the Lamb by Hubert and Jan Van Eyck is a classic example; the Four Horsemen by Albrecht Durer is another. Discussion of these in the light of the visions they attempt to incarnate necessarily leads to a study of the symbolism involved and the building-up of an apocalyptic code book. Cyphers and codes appeal to the detective instincts of the young and present a challenge not to be ignored. Those suffering persecution in any age and for what ever cause have had recourse to such secret formulae; the Christians in first century Asia Minor were no exception.
Essential historical background can be filled in by guided reading or papers to prepare; then it will be possible to study the general lay-out of the book, which is based on seven expressions of the same theme. The chart is given here in its finished form, but it can be best built up in layers, first the general outline and then the detail. Selected readings from each section help to put flesh on the bare bones and the great theme which should begin to emerge is that of the present reality of the Kingdom.
If time allows for a deeper study of the Christ of Revelation, he is a good antidote to gentle Jesus, meek and mild. He is majestic, awe-ful and victorious; he inspires confidence and challenges the idealism of youth in search of a Leader and a Friend. The message of the book emerges as his message and has an eternal validity; it is a message of present struggle and present victory which, in a given moment of time, will cease to be bounded by the temporal and achieve fulfilment in the infinite plenitude of God.