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The Time of "Apocalypses" God's Traces in the World (by FATHER DANIEL, Perm)

1. Structure – Dichotomy of Time

2. Impossibility of contemplation of God's entity

3. Orthodox method to know the real world

4. Time in revelation of St. John the Evangelist

5. Conclusion

When the greatest poets, to start with King Solomon, didn't praise particular events but pondered over appraisal of the whole life they were always confident in the impossibility and vanity of the worldly happiness. Both Christianity and Buddhism being the most sophisticated religions regard life as a land of grief. In this respect the two religions are quite similar. The difference between them lies in the fact that in spite of its attitude to life in the world Christianity keeps its faith both in the purport of life and in the predominance of the moral principles (forbidding to treat an individual only as a means); that is why Christianity has faith in personal immortality and therefore it is a buoyant religion full of love for life but devoid of hatred.

* * *

"The person who reads the words of this message from God is blessed. And the people who hear this message and do the things that are written in it are blessed. There is not much time left."

This phrase opens the Revelation of the apostle John Evangelist and it introduces the problem of our common interest. What time is there "not much left" according to the Evangelist?

St. John's message to the churches is full of biblical reminiscences describing epiphany of Jesus Christ's Advent in glory and His solemn ascending the throne. This is the key-note of the Revelation as a whole, and in this respect this part is a summation of the Holy Writ, comprising all the New Testament in itself.


The notion of time may be understood in two meanings. Firstly, being a measure of things in this created world it is realized in perception: each of us feels the movement of time very poignantly. And this is the feature of time that can be "seen". The coordinates of this aspect are past-present-future.

On the other hand, time somehow denies itself. There is no past – it has already passed away. There is no future – it has not come yet. Present is a flash which immediately becomes a thing of the past. Being intangible time suggests that its existence is the evidence of something different which is beyond time and thus it is Eternity. Time is the image of Eternity here in this world which does not comprise Eternity in other way. Eternity in its turn is the attribute of God.

Here comes the question of possibility to see God and portray Him (which is eventually the same).


"No one has ever seen God" – and it is true. We will not try to cast our feeble glance at the sunlike disk of God's world so as not to be blinded forever by the impudence of our desire.

"Darkness of unawareness" is not obscurantism of ignorance but just a deferential beginning of the research with the hope to be awarded with favorable light of knowledge. For God is known in everything and beyond that, He is known in awareness and unawareness; there is notion, words, knowledge, touch, feeling, opinion, conception, name of Him, etc.; and still He is not known, He can not be uttered and escaped from.

Божественным покровен

медленноязычный мраком

извитийствова богописанный закон,

тину бо отрясочесе умного,

видит Сущаго и научается духу разума.

The image of Moses, the eyewitness of God, coming into the darkness of the Sinai Mount to know  "through unawareness", to be illuminated by the wonderful light coming from this darkness – this is the best image for an artist starting to investigate this problem.


The phenomenon of icon is a specific kind of self-expression and self-explanation of the Church. Icon is the image of God, purity of spirit existing in the world; spirit in the material space. Icon is a symbol of the external world.

So, before broaching our subject we will define the orthodox method of research – the symbolic realism of Holy Fathers.

The Holy teachers of the Church traditionally assert that spirit is the basis of the world: St. Gregory Palama said: "God created this world as certain reflection of the external world, so that we could reach the latter through its spiritual contemplation which looks like climbing up some mysterious ladder. The world of phenomena, the nature, the man himself, etc. – all the things belonging to this world are just a transparent covering of some other world inaccessible to our sense-organs. Spiritual insight finds spiritual meaning, the true essence of an object or an event; but material insight will not rise from the surface and will not penetrate into the nature of a phenomenon. That is why "the one who does not regard each material phenomenon from the physical point of view but regards each of the visible symbols from the spiritual point of view comes to know God-creating logos hidden in every symbol, and it is in logos that he finds God. The one who does not perceive the nature of the visible world only through his feelings but through wisdom and spirit finds God by searching for logos in every creature, passing from contemplation of its magnificence to discovering the cause of these creatures".

Contemplation is not an utmost concentration of attention, but a specific spiritual feeling, close touch; it is a contact of a personality with Personality, which is started by the word and is continued by something that is deeper than a word – true prayer – unuttered conversation of a spirit with Spirit.

Logos is a symbol of the other world. Visible world with phenomena and man belonging to it seen in the course of time is a screen on which the symbols of eternal life are stamped. One should only know how to read these symbols as the Reverend Maxim the Confessor said: "It is necessary to decipher the mysterious cryptogram of life which can be seen only by the sophisticated spiritual eye but is absolutely closed to unclear sensuous sight.

Only as a result of deep concentration one can admit the statement that time is a symbol and an icon of eternity to be true".

As a conclusion it can be said:

This method of getting to know the world is a symbolic path of mind – logos through logoi-symbols to Logos which is the root of life, the meaning of all creatures. The world of creatures is in no way separate from God and divine life but the latter finds its symbolic reflection on the screen of the world of things. The world of things correlates with eternal life.

This point of view explains the whole of the critical language of the Holy Writ. It validates all the symbology of liturgy, mostly of Eucharistic service. It inspires the most profound conventionality of iconography with its mysterious revelations of dogmas on the icon boards which can be actually called "speculation in colours".

Besides, this point of view helps a mystic peering at nature discern the reflection of the other invisible world in it. It reveals the wonderful picture justly called "Cosmic Liturgy". In its desire to know our mind compares things, looks for new images and words, creates symbols, translates events of the external world into its language. In this way symbolization of this world takes place. Symbol is not created by the analyses of concepts but by direct revelation.

This statement characterizes all the history of the cinema. Perhaps it may be called speculation or Theology in film shots.

Peering at this or that phenomenon an artistic or prophetic mind finds something relative to the other world, finds its symbol. This symbol becomes a part of an artist's or theologist-prophet's language. These words abound in Psalter, epistles of the prophets, church's hymnography and Apocalypses of St. John the Evangelist as an apotheosis.


 "There is not much time left", said the author of Apocalypses implying that time is deciduous, being a measure of a certain space it is limited by this space. If it is ending then there was time when it did not exist. Then time like a line begins in this world and ends in the other world changing its substance. This substance as we have already said is eternity.

The divine book of the Revelations compares time in our world to four riders on horses. These images symbolize four main periods of the fallen nature before Judgment Day. During these four main periods seven Angels will blow their trumpets, seven bowls of anger will be poured out, and then comes Doomsday and after it there will be no time left. Some people consider the Revelations to be a horrible book full of evil predictions against man. It is not correct. This book completes the Holy Writ as a concentration of Divine words addressed to Man and God's last word is as full of light and love as His first Word. God is Good and He can not scare man. Man will be judged by God's love and this judgment will be dreadful to sin, righteousness will shine as the sun, as the words of this book are bliss and joy unspoken of clear conscience for righteousness. The Revelation is neither an allegory nor a mathematical formula – i.e. an abstraction. It is a very specific symbol describing the mystery of how our world will cease to be and the new one will begin – triumph and glory of the kingdom of Christ which is not temporary but eternal.

St. John the Evangelist's and all the Church authors' symbolism (as a quire of fine singers glorifying the Almighty) presents the world as a symbolic reflection of the other world which is impending to come.


While looking at man, nature or church hierarchy the Holy fathers intuitively found the reflection of the other world in these phenomena and objects. Similarly once upon a time Adam was walking in the garden of Eden, looking at animals and naming them. That was a mysterious and inconceivable process – reading the great hieroglyph of God, reading a riddle to reveal the One Who created everything.

The ancient people did not dissociate material from spiritual as it is done now. For example, the concept of God's Wisdom we find in the Book of Proverbs is very well defined; there is not much difference between the Wisdom which together with God created the world and the one which can be found in the street songs and talks in the squares. Owing to this perhaps it is possible to feel the unattainable Wisdom as vividly as any reality in the world.

The analogy of visible and invisible was so clear and essential that the authors of the Book of Proverbs and Apocalypses would consider our current conception of the difference between these two notions to be absurd.

Due to their holistic i.e. church world outlook Holy Fathers could pierce into the world and its mysteries much better.

They saw not only the surface of a phenomenon, but its root and its divine purpose. Their science and art devoted to God were neither objective nor abstract. Apostle Paul sees Ideal Knowledge of God in feeling God in the visible world. God's traces and acts should be shown in the world. May evidence of God's traces be full of joy, Great Joy for Resurrection and Coming of God. Amen.