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Musical Musings: Miscellaneous

Canticle of the Lamb

by Pope John Paul II

Here is a translation of John Paul II's address at general audience on September 15, 2004, which he dedicated to comment on the canticle in Chapter 19 of the Book of Revelation.

Salvation, glory, and power to our God:
his judgments are honest and true.
Alleluia, alleuia.

Sing praise to our God, all you his servants,
all you who worship him, great and small.
Alleluia, alleluia.

The Lord our all-powerful God is King;
let us rejoice, sing praise, and give him glory.
Alleluia, alleluia.

The wedding feast of the Lamb has begun,
and his bride is prepared to welcome him.
Alleluia, alleluia.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Alleluia, alleluia.

1. The Book of Revelation is sprinkled with canticles that are raised to God, Lord of the universe and history. Now we have heard one that we come across constantly in each of the four weeks in which the liturgy of Vespers is articulated.

This hymn is sprinkled with the "Alleluia," a word of Jewish origin which means "praise the Lord" and which, curiously, in the New Testament appears only in this passage of Revelation, repeated five times. The liturgy only selects some verses from the text of Chapter 19. In the narrative framework of the passage, they are intoned in heaven by a "great multitude": it is like an imposing chorus that rises from all the elect, who celebrate the Lord in joy and festivity (see Revelation 19:1).

2. For this reason, the Church, on earth, marks the rhythm of her song of praise with that of the just who already contemplate the glory of God. Thus a channel of communication is established between history and eternity: it has its starting point in the earthly liturgy of the ecclesial community and has its end in the heavenly, where our brothers and sisters have already arrived who have preceded us on the way of faith.

In this communion of praise three topics are substantially celebrated. First of all, the great characteristics of God, his "salvation," "glory" and "power" (verse 1; see verse 7), namely, transcendence and saving omnipotence. Prayer is contemplation of the divine glory of the ineffable mystery, of the ocean of light and love that is God.

In the second place, the canticle exalts the "Kingdom" of the Lord, namely, the divine plan of redemption of the human race. Taking up again the theme of the savior of the so-called Psalms of the Kingdom of God (see Psalms 46; 95-98), here is proclaimed that "the Lord has established his reign" (Revelation 19:6), who intervenes with supreme authority in history.

This is certainly entrusted to human freedom, which generates good and evil, but it has its ultimate seal in the decisions of Divine Providence. The Book of Revelation celebrates precisely the end toward which history is led through the effective work of God, despite the storms, wounds and devastations caused by evil, man and Satan.

In another page of Revelation is sung: "We give thanks to you, Lord God almighty, who are and who were. For you have assumed your great power and have established your reign" (11:17).

3. The third topic of the hymn is typical of the Book of Revelation and of its system of symbols: "For the wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready" (19:7). As we will have the opportunity to reflect more deeply in future meditations on this canticle, the definitive end toward which the last book of the Bible leads us is the nuptial meeting between the Angel, who is Christ, and the purified and transfigured bride, which is redeemed humanity.

The expression "the wedding day of the Lamb has come" refers to the supreme moment -- "nuptial," as our text says -- of the intimacy between the creature and the Creator, in the joy and peace of salvation.

4. Let us conclude with the words of one of Saint Augustine's discourses that illustrates and exalts the Alleluia Canticle in its spiritual meaning:

We sing in unison this word and, united around it in communion of feelings, we encourage one another mutually to praise God. God can be praise with a peaceful conscience by the one who has not committed anything that displeases him. Moreover, as regards the present time in which we are pilgrims on earth, we sing the "Alleluia" as a consolation to fortify ourselves through life; the "Alleluia" which we pronounce now is like the song of the wayfarer; in walking on this exhausting way we tend toward that homeland in which is rest, in which, with all the present concerns having disappeared, there will only be the "Alleluia." (No. 255,1: Discorsi [Discourses], IV/2, Rome, 1984, p. 597).

Translation by ZENIT

See CNP's Canticle of the Lamb Catalog #3110

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