Well! Hopefully it’s nice where you’re at, but over here on the United States west coast things look… slightly apocalyptic, to put it mildly.
For instance, my home state of California is basically all on fire. My parents, who still live there, took some videos of them walking on the grass. With every step, you can see a little smoke cloud spring up, since the ground is that saturated in ash. They aren’t even in the worst of the fire country, and still it is raining ash there! Some of my Californian friends have been forced to evacuate. Some of my Californian friends have been forced to evacuate multiple times. And let’s not even talk about the eerie sky that seems to harken the end times…
Up here in my home of Western Washington, things are… only slightly better. Yesterday, the smoke from California and Oregon basically blew in and has rendered the outside air unhealthy. As I type this blog up, the sky is obscured in smoke, though thankfully, even though our sky is completely covered, the smoke is at least letting some sunlight through so that it only looks like a really cloudy day, except the clouds are smoke.
To complicate things, most of us in the Pacific Northwest don’t actually have air conditioning. At all. We open up our windows when it gets too hot because usually that’s okay. So, right now we have a heat wave going on, except we can’t open our windows because the air is choked with smoke and you can’t go outside without feeling your eyes tear up. And, as horrible as the heat is, there’s really no alternative right now.
SO. As you can imagine, I have definitely been meditating on the end times as of late!
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “Ooooh boy. I bet that there’s a lot of scary apocalyptic religious art about the end times!” After all, things are kind of scary right now. (Or, at least they are scary where I am!)
And… actually, I am here to disappoint you.
You see, we already know who’s going to win. Yes, things are going to be scary… our Lord basically guarantees that things will be scary. Just read chapter 24 of the Book of Matthew, if you don’t believe me! Jesus promises that we will basically go through some really scary things at the end times.
And yet, we know that, no matter what happens, that Jesus Christ will triumph over everything.
And so, the pictures of the Apocalypse are pictures of Christ in Glory. And yes, there is chaos all around and things are crazy, but at the same time, Christ is there! His Heavenly Host is there! And Christ is always, always triumphant.
And so for today, I would like to share with you this apocalyptic picture…
Isn’t it beautiful?? It is a depiction of the chaotic scene described in Revelation 12. And so, in the forefront of the picture is the Virgin Mary, who is clothed in the sun and with the moon at her feet and a great dragon croached underneath.
The dragon looks frightening, of course, but it is not the only frightening thing here. You see, the Heavenly Host surrounds the Virgin and Child, and they are ready for battle.
Many of the angels in the outer darkness are blowing horns, which, in ancient times, was the call that battle was to go into battle. But there are not just horns! It is a cacophony of sound. Horns are played, but there are angels playing flutes, harps, keyboards, and lutes as well. They are shaking bells and rattles. Though the picture is silent, it seems to be crying out with noise.
Then, in the lower middle circle of angels which is painted in a bold gold-red, you’ll see them holding their weapons. But, they are not ordinary weapons, no! One angel holds the crown of thorns. Another angel holds the three nails which pinned Jesus to the Cross, as well as the hammer used to drive those nails into His Hands and Feet. Yet another angel holds a red column, on which Jesus was tortured and scourged on. One angel holds the scepter of which He was mocked. Another holds the spear that pierced His side. All of these weapons remind us of the price that Christ had to pay in order to obtain our salvation.
Yet, the real powerful weapons are saved for the top of this middle circle of reddish angels. On the very top, three angels hold up three battle standards, in which the words “Sanctus” or, in English, “Holy” is written, a reference to Revelation 4:8, in which Saint John sees the angels singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy” for eternity. To the left and right, angels carry rosaries.
The inner circle of angels are there to praise and glorify God. They are the cheruibim and seraphim with their six wings. They twist and form themselves around, some holding the crown that sits atop Mary’s head. Yet, they seem to pale in comparison to the glory that is right in front of them, which is Jesus Christ, who is held aloft by His Mother, the Virgin Mary.
And what should I say about Jesus Christ and Mary, who are the front and center of this picture? Light seems to emanate from them so that they seem to be the source of the light. The scripture says Mary seems to be clothed in the sun, and looking at this picture, this seems wondrously true! On top of her head is a garland of roses, which is yet another reference to the Rosary, which is a gift that she gave to us so that we can meditate and think about her son, Jesus Christ. On top of these roses is a crown, for she is the Queen Mother of the King, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. She looks down at Him, and, in that way, invites us to look at Him as well.
He is held in His mother’s arms, merely a baby. And in his hands is a rattle full of bells, which He shakes around, playing along with the other angels who play along with their instruments. In fact! He seems to be looking down directly at the angel who is playing music with a similar set of bells and they seem to be playing a strange duet of sorts!
And so, I have good news and bad news!
The bad news is that, when the end of the world actually comes, it’s probably going to be really chaotic and crazy.
The good news? Jesus Christ is going to be there with us.
And, honestly? That’s the best news ever.