Peeling the Onion: Revelation 12: 13-18

Today, we move figures,

From the celestial visions,

Of woman and dragon,

The former’s escape to safe wilderness sanctuary

And the latter’s fate in the celestial court

 

Put them in another frame today –

Where did you leave the woman in your mind?

There in the wilderness, on earth, in the world,

The enraged, vanquished dragon appears

seeking vengeance

 

Give her wings like an eagle now,

And have her escape once more

 

Imagine the dragon

Opening its mouth,

Spewing not fire this time,

But water, in a deluge,

Trying to flood the woman

 

But the earth comes to her aid,

And absorbs all the dragon’s deluge and flood

And she escapes

 

The dragon,

Angry at the woman,

But thwarted,

By Michael and his angels,

And by the very earth,

Turns its dragon wrath

against the woman’s followers,

New martyrs for the cause

 

Finally, the dragon takes a stand

On the seashore

Another dramatic pause…

 

Keep working with me –

What are these transpersonal entities?

They are at war with one another,

and the humans mere collateral damage –

 

When is our reading anthropomorphic –

At what point pantheist or polytheist –

Respected Christian ‘process theologians’ are panentheistic

 

When is a magical worldview ‘only’ projection or counter-projection?

What distinguishes Latter Day Saints’  ‘apotheosis’

From Greek Orthodox ‘theosis’?

 

There are lots of ‘religious studies’ academics,

Anthropologists of religion,

And social scientists of various disciplines,

Who will ‘describe’ what these figures ‘really mean’ –

How they re-present something else,

Or stand for or stand in as metaphors

 

Most will elide and evade the ontological, or metaphysical,

Preferring in this 21st century the phenomenological –

 

I try to work in the tradition of local Christian clergy,

Reading these texts in the aorist tense,

In pastoral practice and praxis,

Not in academic testing of truth or facticity claims,

By criteria acceptable in the academy,

Nor in bureaucratic testing of orthodoxy,

In the episcopal function of guarding boundaries

 

I wish more of us would simply ‘rinse and repeat’,

The way we do with popular video, audio, or print culture,

Burning neural pathways thoroughly

 

We do this with Disney, with Marvel,

We do it with Tolkien or Rowling…

 

Why do what Kierkegaard called

‘the cultured despisers of religion’

still scare us off with the undeniable risks

when there are greater undeniable rewards

for those who integrate this worldview

into their way of being in this world?

 

What if we could identify with these stories,

In the aorist tense, in the first person plural,

In discourse that renews ‘our story’?

 

With apologies for that flight into arcane diction,

I’m reaching my quota of words today –

 

But really,

Who are you rooting for?

The dragon?

Or the woman?

New Jerusalem Bible Chapter

13 As soon as the dragon found himself hurled down to the earth, he sprang in pursuit of the woman, the mother of the male child,

14 but she was given a pair of the great eagle's wings to fly away from the serpent into the desert, to the place where she was to be looked after for a time, two times and half a time.

15 So the serpent vomited water from his mouth, like a river, after the woman, to sweep her away in the current,

16 but the earth came to her rescue; it opened its mouth and swallowed the river spewed from the dragon's mouth.

17 Then the dragon was enraged with the woman and went away to make war on the rest of her children, who obey God's commandments and have in themselves the witness of Jesus.

18 And I took my stand on the seashore.

NSRV

13 So when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.

14But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, so that she could fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to her place where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.

15Then from his mouth the serpent poured water like a river after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood.

16But the earth came to the help of the woman; it opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth.

17Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus.

18 Then the dragon took his stand on the sand of the seashore.