The readings for this coming Sunday are of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which has precedence over the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
The first reading comes from the Book of the Apocalypse.
The dramatic imagery of the reading speaks of death and life, of hope and fear.
The description of the woman with attributes of sun, moon and stars has been drawn into the way Mary is regularly depicted in Western art.
The Book of the Apocalypse often bemuses and confuses the Western mind. Often readers feel they cannot relate to it because they see its emages as allegorical and they know they do not have the detailed code to ‘read’ , ie decipher. Readers are distracted by what does this mean, what does that mena.
When reading scripture, too often people are distracted by concern for what they think they do not know or do not understand. Sometimes a bible dictionary will provide ‘answers’ to matters of fact and history, but regularly those answers do very little to assist our understanding.
What we often neglect is attending to our simple response to the story, and to the feelings that evokes in us. WHich is a pity for so often it is through these that the Lord speaks to us.
The Lord speaks to our head and to our heart, but – if we allow him – he has a better chance of getting through to us , through our hearts.
(NB the text set for Sunday is given below in bold and in ‘quote sections’ below; the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)
11.19 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.
The Woman and the Dragon
12 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. 5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.
Satan Thrown Down to Earth
7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.
~ Translation of Scriptures: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
~ Commentary: (c) 2020, Allen Morris
~ Photo: (c) 2016, Allen Morris. Carving by Stephen Foster, Parsons Green, London