Sunday, November 29, 2009

Apocalypse and Apocatastasis

English translation of Apocalipsi i Apocatàstasi by Sr. Teresa Forcades.

Both are biblical words, both appear in the New Testament: apocalypse and apocatastasis.

When he sees Jesus, the old man Simeon exclaims: "... light to be revealed to the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel" (Lk 2:32). It should be translated literally: "light for revelation to the Gentiles." The word "revelation" in the original Greek is apocalipsi. Paul repeatedly speaks of the apocalypse of Jesus, commonly translated as the "revelation of Jesus" (1 Cor 1:7; 2 Thes 1:7), so does the letter of Peter (1 Pe 1:7; 1 Pe 1:13) and, of course, so does the book of Revelation in its first verse (Rev 1:1). It is from this last book that the popular use of the word apocalypse in modern languages derives, to indicate large-scale destruction and chaos, like in the famous film Apocalypse Now about the Vietnam War.

The other word that heads this paper,"apocatastasis", appears in the Acts of the Apostles. Peter announces the second coming of the Messiah and the arrival of the "time of consolation" and of "restoration (apocatastasis) of all things" (Acts 3:21). Apocatastasis means "restoration", that is, things return to their original state which, as we know from the book of Genesis, was a state of fullness, a "good and very good" state (Gen 1:31). In the Gospel of Mark, the verb form of this word apocatastasis appears: Jesus heals the man with the withered hand and the evangelist writes that he "restored" (apocatatitzar) the hand (Mk 3:5).

After Peter announces the "time of consolation" and the apocatastasis of all things, they put him and John in jail and the next day they tell them not to speak of this anymore because they are disturbing the public order (Acts 4). After Jesus restores the withered hand on the Sabbath, the Pharisees (the religious authority), in council with the Herodians (the political authority), make a decision against Him on how to get rid of Him (Mark 3:6).

Popular wisdom does not arise from nothing. There is violence associated with the apocalypse of Jesus and his goal of restoring the goodness of things. But violence is never from God. Therefore the Christmas liturgy that we begin to prepare for this week, without forgetting the Holy Innocents or St. Stephen, can call Jesus the "Prince of Peace".

No comments:

Post a Comment