Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lenten Apocalyptic: Rending Our Hearts

Apocalypse is an unveiling, thus why the book of Revelation is called Revelation, and in some Bibles the Apocalypse of St. John. In a sense the book is to show what is underneath the events and happenings in this age that is passing away. This revealing of apocalypse removes an outer layer and opens up to view what has been covered over.

The second chapter of Joel calls for a tearing off of clothes and a tearing of the heart. This is in response to this terrible and unsettling geopolitical event of Joel's day, that Joel also identifies as the day of the Lord. The uncovering of this looming event as the Day of the Lord is to also bring about an opening of the hearts of the people of God.

This rending open of the heart as a response to apocalyptic is perhaps counterintuitive to how apocalyptic thinking is presented to us. Many "End Times" focused and/or obsessed Christians can seem to cover over their hearts within apocalyptic expectation and prediction. Their is an appearance of heartlessness in expecting, looking for, and basing political decisions and actions upon expectations of the end of the world being near.

But as I think about what I have studied and read in the Hebrew Prophets, and in my reading of the Apocalypse of John, this covering over and hardening of the heart to what happens in the world is not the only direction their words can be taken. Rather, I am coming to think that apocalyptic is supposed to lead us to repentance. This repentance based on hearts opened to the levels of meaning and the suffering in the world, uncovers the suffering and upheaval as itself a sign that something other needs to come, if not also the revelation of its coming.

At least a Lenten apocalyptic should be this. Fasting (of various kinds), alms giving, greater perseverance in prayer and meditation during Lent should lead us to large and small Apocalypse, and thus lead us to ever greater and deeper repentance. An apocalypse of our hearts, where our hearts are rent open to the world and its suffering and thus opened up to the nearness and approaching age to come, The Day of the Lord. Apocalypse (properly understood) then should make us a compassionate people without judgment, who identify with a failing world, and wish to bring what Good is here into the world to come, confident this is what God, the Good, is doing.

Uncover your hearts and see the coming of the Day of the Lord.