The book of Revelation is one of the most cryptic and vividly symbolic books of the entire Bible. It was written at a time of unparalleled persecution of the Church by the authorities of Rome. This is likely the reason the book is so highly "encoded" in numbers and symbols that would have been well understood by it's original audience but remains forever shrouded in mist to those of us who read the book today.
Nevertheless, some general themes and points come across quite clearly. Such is the case with today's first reading for Mass from Revelation. The "scene" from today's reading is that of a veritable "assembly" of the elect in God's "Holy Court" at the time of final reckoning (e.g., the "wrapping up", "bringing to a close", or "consummation" of salvation history). All who are gathered are anxiously awaiting the opening of a scroll with seven seals which will begin the process of bringing things to a close and consummation. However, the only one who is able to open the scroll is the "Lamb that was slain", Jesus Christ, the Author and Lord of saving history. With the opening of the scroll a series of apocalyptic events unfolds that will bring salvation history to its "consummating conclusion."
What is this "consummating conclusion"? Taking our cue from the One who alone is worthy to "unroll the scroll", the fact that the Redeemer of all opens it suggests that the inevitable conclusion is the definitive and irrevocable overcoming of death, sorrow, hatred, despair, distress, the wiping away of every tear, and the healing of every broken memory and relationship. It is the Resurrection to newness of life not only persons but every true hope sewn by faith in the field of our lives and world. It is the dawning of the New Heavens and New Earth that bear the scars of the loving struggle that preceded it but now in glorious and beautiful fashion, in the self-same way that Christ still bears his scars of love.
We needn't wait until the end of time in order to begin experiencing a foretaste of this consummating conclusion. In a very real sense, each of our lives is a small "s" scroll and chapter of the larger "S" Scroll of salvation history. The key is to allow the Lord to unroll the scroll of the history of our lives in order to experience a bit of the hope that we have for it's final and glorious redemption. What this practically implies is looking back on our history in all of it's complexity, difficulty, and glory with Christ and the Holy Spirit beside us and allowing a "redemptive" conversation to ensue about the events, especially the painful ones. What we will discover is that the Lord of Life and Glory is capable of transforming even some of the darkest moments into new possibilities for life and love. All we need to do is partner with Christ in "unrolling the scroll." Pat, TOR