Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | August 14, 2009

Zizioulas on the Epicletical Apocalypse

Let me admit at the outset to a bit of mystification with the Apocalypse. This is not just with part of it, but with the whole. I’ve much appreciation for the Orthodox premise that the book is really a model of worship, but like so much, it’s not just an allegory and surely there is a more literal meaning more consistent with the text that is at the same time loving rather than the common distorted condemnation of one’s troubles and unruly demons.  As they say: “Maybe, and maybe not”. But we’re not going there here.

And we’re not going there because my own confusion and caution on this book dates at least as far back as high school when I started an attempt to unpack the vision in a painting that remains judiciously unfinished. I may still have the sketches of the scene around the seated elders folded up with stuff in the attic, but it was good to stop. And stopping, if I’m honest, reflected as much as my limited drawing skills as the confusion of the subject matter for a guy whose exposure at the time was limited to the late-20th century Anglican church. For even in Anglican cathedrals, worship is nevertheless inadequate to illumine an understanding of the liturgy and its accoutrements much less it’s unfolding. In the text, there’s this going on, then this…. no that. And maybe it’s all going on at the same time, but how do you draw this? And where do you find a model to follow if you haven’t even had art history? Ah, that’s where a shortage of humility came in handy to starting out anyway… that heady point where desire overwhelms common sense. Perhaps I was literally saved by the bell….the end of the school year.

So Zizioulas’s thought makes it easier to see the Apocalypse as simply the consecration of the world, and this offers a view that synthesizes both the literal text and the concept of the text as an account of worship by holding it as a eucharistic ending (or offering) of the whole.  Most folks probably are way ahead of me on this, but if you’re like me these days, and studiously putting off re-reading it, maybe this is a good enough point of departure, or at least something useful and worth more pondering – or alternatively worth a “duh” in the comment box:

“The ecclesiological significance of this can be illustrated by the ideas of the book of the Apocalypse, in which the Church lives in an intense epicletic atmosphere containing a syntheseis of two elements: on the one hand, the assurance of Christ’s presence on the eucharistic table and, on the other, the Church’s cry: “Come Lord, come.” When the Church lives epicletically, she cannot but long for what she already is. The synthesis of the historical with the eschatologocial in the epicletical conditioning of history constitutes what we may properly – and not in the distorted sense – call the sacramental nature of the Church.”

Okay… honestly it’s not looking as clear here as I thought it did the other night… but it sure seems like it was suggested somewhere. Then again, maybe that’s my Thickheaded brain misfiring.


  1. But certainly we should be able to systemically and rationally pull apart and organize this theological vision, no?

    If not, then it must not be true.

    It is hard to type with one’s tongue in cheek. 🙂

  2. SOS: Thanks for stopping by. Yeah…you’re right… we should pull it apart… no! wait! “Duh!”

    Someone had to write it! 🙂

  3. Ah, yes. I also have some sketches from high school art that I began for an illustrated Book of Revelation. They’re in the portfolio under the basement staircase. “Living epicletically”? Toss THAT phrase into a conversation and folks will probably tell you to be sure to stuff a sock in your mouth so you don’t bite your tongue off when it happens.

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