The Face of the Living One

When the Lamb opens the sixth seal the terrible wrath of the divine is revealed. The fifth seal was the self-revelation of the Lamb as judge and avenger. Now the revelation discloses the face of the avenger. It is a face seen through the imagery of nature and natural events at their worst. The face, which to look upon is sure death, is as terrible as an earthquake. It divides violently, separates, devastates. When the face that means death shines, it blocks out the sun completely, and life on earth is threatened with extinction. The moon, long associated with light and water, becomes blood, changing its own nature, and hence its relationship to earth. Stars, long fixed and dependable, fell in abundance as figs from a shaken tree. And the sky, home of the divine, vanished, proclaiming the withdrawal, the absence of the divine. When the redemptive divine withdraws, all that remains is destruction. The avenger does not avenge by appearing as it is. It avenges by withdrawing its own real identity of grace, and allowing the void to be filled with its contrast, a likeness of wrath. The avenger’s absence allows it to re-appear as the counter-divine, the natural, rather than the divine, and to shed abroad its wrath upon the human. All stations of social order have come under judgment. In the immediacy of wrath, the orders of society are levelled. Kings and slaves no longer inhabit palaces and hovels. All have become cave dwellers. From the wrath of the natural, they sought shelter within the natural. The return to the cave symbolizes a new beginning. They pray, “hide us from the face,” save us from the wrath of the Lamb. The “face” of the living one and the wrath of the Lamb are one and the same. The sixth seal reveals the divine as wrathful, while still providing a place of shelter, the cave, the crevice of rocks, from its face. Even in its wrathful aspect, the divine works its grace upon the human. When the divine withdraws, the heavens and the earth, and the inhabitants of the earth, all lose their center, that which has held them together in their rightful, orderly place, keeping chaos at bay. “Things fall apart, the center cannot hold.”

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