Pope Benedict XVI says the final book of the Bible, which he referred to as the Book of the Apocalypse, provides Christians with a vision of a Church fully in communion with Jesus Christ in prayer.
“The Apocalypse presents us with a community gathered in prayer, because it is in prayer that we gain an increasing awareness of Jesus’s presence with us and within us,” the Pope said during his Sept. 5 general audience at the Vatican.
“The more and the better we pray with constancy and intensity, the more we are assimilated to him, and the more he enters into our lives to guide them and give them joy and peace. And the more we know, love and follow Jesus, the more we feel the need to dwell in prayer with him, receiving serenity, hope and strength for our lives,” he explained.
Pope Benedict flew in by helicopter from his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo to deliver his reflections to over 8,000 pilgrims gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall. The address formed another chapter in the Pope’s continuing exploration of the “school of prayer” in the story of salvation.
He told the audience that the Book of Revelation “is a difficult book, but one of great richness” which presents the reader “with the living breathing prayer of the Christian assembly, gathered together ‘on the Lord’s day.’”
“In it a reader presents the assembly with a message entrusted by God to John the Evangelist,” the Pope noted. “From the dialogue between them a symphony of prayer arises which is then developed in many different forms up until the conclusion.”
Pope Benedict outlined how the first part of the Bible’s last book presents three different but successive phases of the great assembly at prayer.
The first highlights that “prayer is, above all, a listening to God who speaks.” In a modern world where we are often “engulfed” by “so many words” we are often unused to listening and, especially, to “adopting an interior and exterior attitude of silence so as to attend to what the Lord wishes to say to us,” he said.
“These verses also teach us that our prayers, often merely prayers of request, must in fact be first and foremost prayers of praise to God for his love, for the gift of Jesus Christ which brought us strength, hope and salvation.”
The Pope suggested that this first phase also reminds us that constant prayer “revives in us a sense of the Lord’s presence in our life and history.”
“Prayer, even that pronounced in the most extreme solitude, is never a form of isolation and it is never sterile, it is a vital lifeline which nourishes an increasingly committed and coherent Christian existence,” he said.
In the second phase of the first part of Revelation we then witness how “the relationship with Jesus Christ is developed further,” Pope Benedict taught.
“The Lord makes himself visible, he speaks and acts, and the community, increasingly close to him, listens, reacts and accepts.”
Finally, in the third phase, the Pope pointed to a “Church in prayer” that, in accepting the word of the Lord, is “transformed.”
“The assembly listens to the message, and receives a stimulus for repentance, conversion, perseverance, growth in love and guidance for the journey.”
The Pope finished his general audience by addressing the assembled pilgrims in several different languages.
“Prayer with others, liturgical prayer in particular, will deepen our awareness of the crucified and risen Jesus in our midst,” he told English speaking pilgrims. “Thus, the more we know, love and follow Christ, the more we will want to meet him in prayer, for he is the peace, hope and strength of our lives.”
He then led the pilgrims in the singing of the Our Father in Latin before imparting his apostolic blessing and returning to Castel Gandolfo by helicopter.