The Silence before the Thunder


The opening of the seventh seal comes with great expectations. The spirit of the mystic, the apocalypticist, is filled with the completeness of everything that is symbolized by the throne room. This is the fulness of Presence, the completeness of the present. Time does not exist around the throne of the transcendent and its attendants. “When” the Lamb opens the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for half an hour. Where time does not exist, “when” does not exist. That the word introduces the opening of this seal indicates that something violent intrudes here, and that something is time. Time breaks up eternity so that it may make room for the coming forth of the temporal, that is, the human. The visionary sees the primordial Silence broken, lasting momentarily. Silence, which is fulness, may well be a metaphor for the divine one, the eternal one who must be broken so that the new creation, the temporal one, can come forth from its brokenness. Silence itself comes forth in its otherness as sound, hence the violence. While the Silence still prevailed, John witnesses a liturgical scene, full of praise and worship. The angel with the censer fills it with fire and casts it upon the earth. The scene shifts from heaven to earth. The violent rupture of the divine has taken place. This violence is described as thunder, voices, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. John is witnessing a theophany, shifting from heaven to earth. The message is now the divine is manifested upon the earth, that is, the fire of the incense has cleansed the earth in preparation for the arrival of the divine. The Lord is in his holy temple, let the earth be Silent. For a brief moment John sees the earth as the throne of the divine. The dwelling of the Lord is with humanity. Just as creation is being re-enacted here liturgically, so we are to expect that there will be other iterations of events that will challenge humanity to abide in faith. When the Silence becomes its other, the Thunder, we see the divine differently. When the Silence is broken, it makes room for the coming forth of the Word. The ground is being laid for the incarnation.

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