Apocalypse – The End of the Liturgical Year
As we approach the feast of Christ the King, the cycle of readings reminds us of the end of days. Christianity is almost unique in its focus on the end and culmination of all things and the Second Coming of the Lord. The images are very different from the entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. St. Stephen, the first martyr, sets the tone, declaring to his judges that the time is coming when they will see Christ descending on them in glorious judgment.
There were many books about the end of days published before the millenium. The biggest publishing success was the Left Behind series, a group of novels by Tim LeHaye and Jerry Jenkins. The series combined a literal approach to the Book of Revelation, also known by its Greek title, The Apocalypse, with a theology which came primarily from the tent revival meetings of the 20th century in the United States. There is a very strong dose of Calvinist predestination, Anabaptist altar calls to conversion, and Medieval delectatio morosa – delight in the suffering of the others, especially the damned.
Horror movies are always popular in American culture. Perhaps they are a secular celebration of evil that twists what is supposed to be the encouragement apocalyptic literature offers to those undergoing persecution. Of course there is the old technique of fire and brimstone sermons to scare the “hell” out of people. Apparently many people liked and still like the horror entertainment value of these sermons, which seem to create a god who is far from loving.
The end of the year and the beginning of the new year is a time to focus on more than the settling of scores. It is a time to show the mercy we want to receive on that Last Day.