Sunday, January 15, 2012

Revelation 17: the adulterous woman and the beast

A women wearing beautiful jewels and drinking from a golden cup rides a seven headed beast. Sounds – strange. Different. Exciting. Sounds….well, like adultery.

The woman rides the beast, so drunk on the blood of the saints that she believes she is “in control”, is leading the beast, and can climb off whenever she wants. The beast leaves her to her fantasy because it knows that at the appointed time it will seduce, dominate, and destroy her.

It’s selfish, short-term, Midnight Rendez-vous thinking. And of course it is a counterfeit for the real thing, the eternal love affair between the bridegroom and the bride, in which both give up their rights, their comforts, their very lives for love of each other.  

Who “is” this woman, allegorically speaking? An angel explains she sits on “the seven hills”, an obvious reference to Rome, as are her scarlet and purple clothes. Like Herodias this Jezebel adultress responds to prophetic warning by killing the prophet.

Some think she represents church leaders who whored after the Spirit of the World and persecuted God’s saints.  This view is, or at least used to be, popular among some anti-Catholic Protestants. If true then in fairness it must be said that whenever church leaders of any creed have loved power more than Truth or people, they have drunk of the maddening adulteries from this woman’s cup. And that while some titular Bishops of Rome were acting more like Roman Emperors, their co-religionists were healing the sick, teaching the unlettered, feeding the hungry and preserving the Gospels in countless monasteries and mission outposts scattered across Europe, Asia, Africa, and the mid-East. Lovers of the “Redwall” series by Brian Jacques can understand their importance.

Let me be blunt – as an inheritor of the Reformation, I consider the Roman Catholic Church my “mother” with whom many of my brothers and sisters still reside. I do not always agree with her.Yet  I honor the sacrifices she made before I was even born. And even if she has sometimes been controlling in her zeal and I have been a self-righteous adolescent, I would like to think that our relationship has matured into one of respect and love despite our agreement to disagree on some matters of truth that we both find important. Insofar as she is of the Bride, we are family.

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