Silence in Heaven

The Book of Revelation is not one I profess to understand. It is shot through with strange and terrible prophecies, illumined by an unsettling end-of-the-world glare. Chapter 12, the origin of the story of the Archangel Michael’s battle with Satan, has so many levels of meaning and reference that its complexities leave me confused. That said, the triumph of good over evil, however portrayed, is always an encouraging one, though we know full well that the battle is not over for us yet. There is, however, an earlier chapter in Revelation that caught my eye this morning: chapter 8, where there is silence in heaven for half an hour after the seventh seal is broken.

Silence in scripture is a sign of the coming of God, a mark of anticipation and reverence. Only the Lamb can break the seal, for only the Lamb can control what is to happen next. Traditional interpretations of Revelation 8 speak of the prayers of the saints and the work of the angels in holding back the woes that afflict humankind, but only for ‘half an hour’, a short period of time. I sometimes think that this brief half-hour of strenuous silence is an image of the prayer offered by the monastic order. We do not pray in order to change God’s mind about anything; we pray simply because he is God. But our prayer does effect change — because he wills that it should. Just as he loves us, so our love for him expressed in prayer and adoration creates the kind of intimacy and trust we see portrayed in the Trinity of the Rublev icon. There is, humanly speaking, neither beginning nor end, for all comes from him. We are inserted into the dynamic of God’s love, and who would wish to be anywhere else?

When we ask the prayers of St Michael to defend us in the day of battle, we are not merely asking help when we confront our inner demons, the evil we see around us or the hidden dangers that assault us, we are asking to be open to this love of God that is our rock, our surest defence against everything that is negative and destructive. It is God’s love that leads us, protects us, and ultimately saves us. Let us rejoice that we have in Michael so mighty a guide, so doughty a champion — and perhaps remember that it is our privilege as human beings to know those things into which even angels long to look (cf 1 Peter. 12). What gratitude should be ours!

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7 thoughts on “Silence in Heaven”

  1. Thank you for an insightful post. As you say, Revelation is a trouble some book with its portray of the ends of times, but it also contains much inspiration. I often draw upon 21.4 where the description “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” has resonated with me on many occasions when I have struggled to overcome issues facing me in life, while discerning a vocation and being knocked back, and during the sometimes stressful training for Lay Ministry, which stretched my capabilities almost to breaking point at times. But somehow, I always found God in the midst of it ready to comfort and to calm. I’ve used those promises in prayers for or with others and sometimes in preaching. So thank you for reminding me how much hope the book also contains.

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  2. Dear Sister, This is a heart-warming blog. Thank you. I confess that whenever possible I avoid the Book of Revelations, try to practice the ‘silence’ when praying, and often am heartily thankful to ask Archangel Michael for help!

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  3. I did a module on Revelation in a Masters course. I still don’t understand it! However, I was very heartened and encouraged by your thoughts on prayer, which chime with other things I am hearing at the moment. There seems to be a call from God towards intimacy…. and I for one feel like a wriggly toddler wanting to explore other things all the time…. How to focus on God? That might be a blog topic for you!

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