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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Revelation 17,8-18

'The beast you have seen was once alive and is alive no longer; it is yet to come up from the Abyss, but only to go to its destruction. And the people of the world, whose names have not been written since the beginning of the world in the book of life, will be astonished when they see how the beast was once alive and is alive no longer, and is still to come.

'This calls for shrewdness. The seven heads are the seven hills, on which the woman is sitting.

The seven heads are also seven emperors. Five of them have already gone, one is here now, and one is yet to come; once here, he must stay for a short while.

The beast, who was alive and is alive no longer, is at the same time the eighth and one of the seven, and he is going to his destruction.

'The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet been given their royal power but will have royal authority only for a single hour and in association with the beast.

They are all of one mind in putting their strength and their powers at the beast's disposal,

and they will go to war against the Lamb; but because the Lamb is Lord of lords and King of kings, he will defeat them, he and his followers, the called, the chosen, the trustworthy.'

The angel continued, 'The waters you saw, beside which the prostitute was sitting, are all the peoples, the populations, the nations and the languages.

But the ten horns and the beast will turn against the prostitute, and tear off her clothes and leave her stark naked; then they will eat her flesh and burn the remains in the fire.

In fact, God has influenced their minds to do what he intends, to agree together to put their royal powers at the beast's disposal until the time when God's words shall be fulfilled.

The woman you saw is the great city which has authority over all the rulers on earth.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The angel explains to the apostle the secret face of the Whore and her destiny. The opening declaration about the demonic Beast is clear, however: he is linked to the Whore with unbreakable bonds. With words that echo in contrast to the divine definition of the one "who is and who was and who is to come" (1:4.8, 4:48), the angel says instead that the Beast "was, and is not." The beast is an incumbent presence in history, but he is not invincible and eternal. Evil, in the end, is not impossible to eradicate. In fact, it is destined to be uprooted, leaving the followers of the Beast surprised and discouraged; their names are obviously not written in the "book of life." The angel explains that the beast has seven heads, a symbol of the "seven hills" and the "seven kings." The analogy with the Seven Hills of Rome and its seven kings is striking, but the heads also represent all of the kingdoms that are hostile to the true God and his people. John echoes the passage from Daniel that emphasizes on the one hand how evil extends its reach through many of the sovereigns and powerful people of this world ("ten" is a number that indicates completeness), and on the other how limited their triumph is: "for one hour." Evil’s hours are numbered, because the Lord has already defeated it. Consequently, anyone who takes the side of the Beast is founding his or her existence on the sand; all of the powerful people who "are united in yielding their power and authority to the beast" (v. 13) are destined to fall. It is in vain that they wage war against Christ the Lamb. The Lamb is the Lord of everything and everyone, and he will cast them down into the dust, triumphing over them with those who are "called and chosen and faithful" (v. 14) by his side. The lamb, the symbol of meekness and weakness, is the true force that defeats evil and its followers. The angel’s explanation is nearing its end. John first returns to the theme of the waters that surround the Whore (17:1), a symbol of the whole of humanity, described in the traditional four-fold formula of peoples, multitudes (usually the term is "tribes"), nations, and languages (v. 15), but then he describes a new act. The vassals of the Beast-Whore-Babylon revolt against her, torture her, humiliate her, dismember her, and burn her. The demon of division takes control of her followers and sets them one against the other: Babylon will be reduced to a pile of bare and smoking ruins. All of this activity is ultimately directed by God himself, from whom no human action escapes. The last verse (18) suggests what the angel’s "lesson" might be: the Whore, "the great city that rules over the kings of the earth" is the image of all absolute power, the concentration of all the earthly victories won by blood and injustice. Upon it will fall the judgment and condemnation of the Lord of lords and the King of kings, the one and true Almighty.

Memory of the Mother of the Lord