Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Apocalypse is Multi-dimensional: Michael O'Brien

It was a delight to read Michael O'Brien's thoughts on: "Are We Living In Apocalyptic Times?"

At the turn of the third millenium, there is much speculation about whether we are living in the Apocalypse (or the End Times).  People's responses vary.  Some meditate on it seriously.  Some aren't sure.  Others shirk it off.  Some rationalise it by remarking that the past has been dotted with episodes of end-of-the-world hysteria, only to find that afterward the world had continued on: false alarms.  Many dismiss it based on the uncertainty of its schedule and appeal to the surety of the personal judgement at the conclusion of each person's life. And yet some rationalisations have stated that the apocalyptic prophecies, including the figures of the Beast and the Great Abomination, refer entirely to historical figures of the early Christian Era and the Roman Empire--events and figures that occured ages ago, which we are now over with.

Understandably, many have entreated these dismissals perhaps as knee-jerk reactions against the imposing paranoia and fanaticism that the End Times subject can tend to bear.  

I have been doing my own pondering on the "Signs of the Times".  Michael O'Brien's speech, "Are We Living In Apocalyptic Times?" is the subject of this post. It's a speech he gave at St. Patrick's Basicila, Canada in 2005.  The speech is balanced, mystical, and real.  It has given me to some deeper soul searching.

Michael O'Brien shares, so artfully and philosophically, his ponderings of the meaning of the Apocalypse, and suggests where we might be situated in relation to that Great Event.  The reader gets the sense that the author's perspective is infused with an inexorable reverance and awe for God, in Whom the mystery of the Apocalypse issues forth, as a gift to man. It is as if O'Brien gazes steadily and unflinchingly upward, his eyes fixed on God, as the sun and moon continue their many rises and falls throughout time. And he listens and waits for Mystery to reveal itself in the signs of his life and ours.  Like Elijah.

His speech presents a delicately balanced and discerning opinion on the Signs of the Times; of our times.  It presents what is essentially the central theme of O'Brien's eminent novel, "Father Elijah: An Apocalypse": that the book of Apocalypse is multi-dimensional.  It is not linear; not merely chronological.  It is before, is now, and there will be the eventual climactic, global calamity preceding the advent of the next world.

Are we the generation who will see the passing over of this world, O'Brien asks? He provides an enlightening response to some of the dismissive reactions that come off 'End Times' speculations.  While it is not useful that exaggerated fear has been promoted by some speculators, O'Brien states that neither is it conducive to the faith, for people to abandon all meditation on the subject.  Nor is it honest to simply dismiss its potential imminence without due consideration.  O'Brien acknowledges the certainty of personal judgement for each person at death.  But at one time, he says, one generation will have to see the Great Apocalypse happen before their very eyes; why can't it be ours?

Despite a bold and honest address on the mounting tribulation that our world finds itself with today, O'Brien's speculations on the Apocalypse carry none of the outlandish or fearful traits that accompany some end-of-the-world extrapolations.  Rather, his thoughts convey a sense of calm and tranquility.  When you read the transcript of his speech it will elicit in you a serious reflection on the signs of the times.  But you will also come away feeling somewhat soothed.  Somewhat cleansed.  You will feel sobered up before a gentle weight of personal responsibility descends upon you.  Perhaps a good writer is able to deliver this to his readers and convey his moods and virtues that he himself possesses.

Michael O'Brien's speech gives me the impression of somebody who has long meditated on the sacred Psalms and on the "face of God".  It depicts a stormy drama unfolding before us.  But in the centre of it, resides the author's contemplative heart of immovable hope and lively trust in the mystery of Revelation itself.

For me, the speech is one that gives hope even as enormous crisis' unravel before us.  Above all, it is a gentle and firm prompting to meditate, in the depth of my being, what I cannot hide from: my personal response to these tribulations in the time and in the world I live in.

For those interested in the signs of the times, I highly recommend a reading of the speech: "Are We Living In Apocalyptic Times?", Michael O'Brien.

In the meantime, here are a few paragraphs to whet your appetite (but the rest is even better...):

"...Human psychology is such that we tend to perceive our own times as normal. We are born and raised in a given culture with certain spiritual and material realities all around us. People of every generation experience the world as an imperfect environment, but it is still their world. At some point in history, however, a generation is going to go through the final stage of the apocalypse, yet to them it will appear to be a normal world. It will have problems, and its citizens may even admit that the problems are grave, but it will be difficult for most to understand it in terms of the absolute crisis presented in the Book of Revelation. This is precisely the condition which Jesus warns us about in Matthew 24. That generation which is least awake, least able to recognize what is happening, perhaps even a most comfortable and confident generation, will be the one in which the spirit of Antichrist will manifest itself fully. Are we the long-foretold generation?

And if so, how will our enslavement be accomplished? It will be accomplished by increasing the voltage of state power combined with a gradual decreasing of civil rights, the lifting of burdensome responsibilities from our shoulders combined with the increase of pleasurable rewards, the growth of a power class of “knowers”, who enshrine a multi-faceted gnosticism in organs of institutional governance. If at the same time, man’s ability to exercise his healthy critical and analytical faculties has been limited by corrupt education, by media indoctrination, and by a generalized loss of the sense of human identity, the new world order can be achieved—and achieved most effectively, it should be noted, to the degree that it is understood as a “moral” cause, a great leap forward in the name of humanity.

This is already underway in several nations of the West. It may in the near future succeed to the level of totality. What stands in its path? Only the Roman Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II in a number of his public talks and in his encyclicals, notably Centessimus Annus and Evangelium Vitae, says that we must not conclude that simply because the more brutal forms of totalitarianism such as fascism and Marxism appear to be overturned and democratic governments are rising in these former tyrant-states, mankind will now right himself and we will all proceed into the new and glorious future. John Paul II continually taught that a future defined as a restoration of the world through inexorable evolutionary processes is a false assumption, and in fact he goes so far as to warn that we of the Western liberal democracies may in the long run stand in greater danger than those peoples of Eastern Europe and other parts of the world who have suffered under overt tyranny. Their sufferings were catastrophic; they were crucified nations, crucified peoples, crucified particular churches. Yet in those lands the beast was unmasked, revealed itself for what it was.

The beast that is now all around us devours the innocent on many levels of our society. Most obviously, it devours the innocent in the womb in huge numbers, through state-sanctioned, state-funded murder, discreetly hidden within our hygienic institutions. Euthanasia now is spreading. Ten years ago, a member of my extended family was saved only by a hair from being murdered in a Catholic institution. Such incidents are becoming more frequent. Why, then, is the unthinkable becoming normalized all around us? It has spread, and will continue to spread, because of the blurring of thinking and numbing of conscience, aided by the theological nuancing of the Truth into abstractions that seem no longer applicable to practical reality.

What have the Popes said about the character of our times? ..."

Read on:  
"Are We Living In Apocalyptic Times? (Part 1)"

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