The Church takes its second reading on the Sundays of Easter from the book of Revelation in order to meditate on the implications of Jesus’ resurrection for us. This Third Sunday the reading is from John’s vision of the slain Lamb standing before God’s throne in heaven receiving worship from all. Here is a comment on Rev 5:11-14 from Peter S. Williamson Revelation (forthcoming, Fall 2014).
Surrounding the throne and the living creatures and elders John sees countless angels who respond to the “new hymn” of the living creatures and elders with a great shout of acclamation praising the Lamb. Then John hears every living thing in heaven, on earth, and under the earth—i.e., the whole universe—joining in and acclaiming both God and the Lamb. In response to their praise the four living creatures answer “Amen,” and the elders prostrate themselves. Thus, a wave of praise starts from the angels closest to the throne and rushes outward in all directions. When it reaches the extreme limits of creation, it rolls back again to the center where it is confirmed by those stationed closest to God and the Lamb.
It is precisely because the Lamb has been slain that all the angels acclaim him as Worthy of divine honors. This acclamation attributes adoration equally “To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.” This is an extraordinary statement to arise from a Jewish monotheist like John, but it is the characteristic claim made about Jesus by the early Church (John 1:1-18; 1 Cor 8:4; Phil 2:9-11; Heb 1:1-3). This word of praise is all-encompassing and uniquely fitting for God because it is fourfold, symbolizing universality—“blessing and honor, glory and might”—and eternal, “forever and ever.”
The Christian tradition has always understood, as Pope John Paul II said, that “the liturgy we celebrate on earth is a mysterious participation in the heavenly liturgy.” In fact, all genuine Christian prayer is a participation in the worship of heaven. According to St. Paul, there is in a real way in which we already have been “raised with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly places” (Eph 2:6; Col 3:1-4; see Catechism 1003). Baptized believers are in communion with heaven and God’s throne because we have been united to Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit. This is true of our personal prayer, but especially in our prayer with others (Matt 18:20), and above all, when we participate in the Eucharist and re-present to God the sacrifice of his Son. Of course, the participation in the life of heaven we now enjoy is incomplete and awaits a future fulfillment: “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face” (1 Cor 13:12). As the Catechism says, “In the earthly liturgy we share in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the Holy City of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims…” (1090).
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