NOVEMBER 19, 2008; APOCALYPSE 4:1-11; LUKE 19:1-28
ABOVE ME THERE WAS AN OPEN DOOR TO HEAVEN, AND I HEARD A TRUMPETLIKE VOICE, WHICH HAD SPOKEN TO ME BEFORE. IT SAID “COME UP HERE.”Already in the first chapter of his Apocalypse, John had heard this same voice. On that occasion the speaker commissioned him to write down the vision that he was to see. Now, at a second vision, he is transported into another world and finds himself in the presence of God himself, seated on his glorious throne and surrounded by mysterious, holy creatures. The scene is full of the activity of the liturgy of heaven, centered on the majestic personage seated on the throne. The worship offered him is essentially an acknowledgment of his surpassing dignity. He is identified as he creator of the entire universe: “O Lord our God, you are worthy to receive glory and honor and power! For you have created all things.”
This scene reminds us of the inaugural vision of Isaiah the prophet. He too was given a heavenly commission in a transport that brought him into direct contact with the living God. He not only witnessed the heavenly court but became a participant in the activities proceeding from the throne of God. John too in his first vision was made an active participant in the divine action, being directed to record the messages God reveals to his churches. Even more strikingly, Jesus presented himself as the one who opened to his followers the place where the Father abides: “ am the door of the sheepfold . . . . Anyone who enters through me will be safe.” (John 10: 7, 9).
John, like Isaiah, recorded the content of his vision and the messages given him to communicate to the churches. He made clear the circumstances in which he received his commission. God himself appeared to him in the form of the Son of man who identified himself as the First and the last, the Living one. He went on to speak to him so as to reveal his divine plans in some detail.
Today we are brought into contact with these same mysteries on this Feast of Saint Mechtild, for the Lord also revealed to her in contemplative prayer, very directly, the mysteries of his love. Above all she was given a profound insight into the love of the Heart of Jesus and shared her understanding with Saint Gertrude, her companion in the monastery of Helfta, Germany. The two of them contributed profound and detailed teachings learned by special revelations, to the Church’s devoted understanding the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In their contributions these two outstanding contemplative nuns were expressing in a more developed and detailed version truths they had assimilated from their meditation on Saint Bernard of Clairvaux’s writings. They contributed in this way to the richess of the Cistercian tradition.
No less significant than the content of the messages delivered through John’s writings in the Apocalypse is the fact that God himself deigns to communicate directly with his chosen witnesses. That is precisely what each of us is called upon to realize here at this altar this morning.
. In the Eucharist the same Lord of glory who spoke with John on the island of Patmos and revealed to him something of his glory and the nature of the liturgy of his heavenly court, invites us to enter into his presence by entering within us. Gregory of Nyssa had already pointed out how close God is to his creatures: “Can anyone be so simple-minded as not to believe that the divine is present in everything, pervading, embracing, and penetrating it?” (Cat. Or. 25, cited Lewis Ayres, “Deification and the Dynamics of Nicene Theology,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 49  386) In order the more fully to express his love for us, Jesus established the sacrament of his glorified body and blood to make this divine presence more accessible to us and more efficacious for our life with him. While God is actively present in all his creation, sustain it in its further evolution, in this sacrament he communicates himself in a more personal, direct manner, even while remaining hidden except to trusting faith.
With the gratitude of a lively faith, then, may we praise him by lives that witness to his truth and love as well as by our participation in the praises of the liturgy. In this way we join with Saint John, with the prophet Isaiah, with Mary, and the whole heavenly court in acknowledging the surpassing beauty, goodness, and love of the God who created us, and who has given us his son as the door through which we enter his presence so as to become partakers of his glory. Amen. &
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger