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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

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Revelation 18,1-2.21-31; 19,1-3.9

After this, I saw another angel come down from heaven, with great authority given to him; the earth shone with his glory. At the top of his voice he shouted, 'Babylon has fallen, Babylon the Great has fallen, and has become the haunt of devils and a lodging for every foul spirit and dirty, loathsome bird. Then a powerful angel picked up a boulder like a great millstone, and as he hurled it into the sea, he said, 'That is how the great city of Babylon is going to be hurled down, never to be seen again. Never again in you will be heard the song of harpists and minstrels, the music of flute and trumpet; never again will craftsmen of every skill be found in you or the sound of the handmill be heard; never again will shine the light of the lamp in you, never again will be heard in you the voices of bridegroom and bride. Your traders were the princes of the earth, all the nations were led astray by your sorcery. In her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and all the blood that was ever shed on earth.' After this I heard what seemed to be the great sound of a huge crowd in heaven, singing, 'Alleluia! Salvation and glory and power to our God! He judges fairly, he punishes justly, and he has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her prostitution; he has avenged the blood of his servants which she shed.' And again they sang, 'Alleluia! The smoke of her will rise for ever and ever.' The angel said, 'Write this, "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb," ' and he added, 'These words of God are true.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

In order to give Christians a reason to hope and trust, the author of Revelation describes the collapse of Babylon, the world superpower responsible for the persecution of Christians. Despite the apparent stability of the Roman Empire, John knows that everything is in the hands of God, and that even the Roman Empire is subject to Him. And so it is for any empire of yesterday and today. Any power that is founded not on God and his laws but on its own arrogance and interests will see its ruin. This is what happened to Rome, but with an example not too far from us, we could add that this is what happened to those ideologies in the last century that tried to build models of humanism far from God. John describes the fall of Rome through the words of those who had contributed to and benefited from the splendour of the city and who had let themselves be contaminated by its vices. There are three categories of people: kings, merchants, and shipmasters, basically the political and economic powers whose origin, source of nourishment, and outlet was found in the great metropolises. The kings represent the power of the state, which imitates the unfaithfulness and idolatry of Babylon. The merchants are the great wholesalers who possess entire fleets to transport their cargo, the embodiment of what today could be compared to the great multinationals. The shipmasters and sailors represent the ministers of the numerous public services. The first lamentation (v. 9-10) is pronounced by the assembly of the powerful of the earth who see their own fate in the smoking ruins of Babylon. They begin with a double "Alas" and end with a note of bitter amazement at such a sudden fall: the Babylonian superpower collapsed like a house of cards in the space of "one hour." The psalmist had already meditated on this fact, "Surely everyone goes about like a shadow. Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; they heap up, and do not know who will gather" (Ps 39:6-7). The second lamentation over Babylon (v. 11-17a) is pronounced by the executives of the great commercial enterprises that revolved around the empire, the primary axis of their existence. The long list of wares (v. 12-13) consists above all of the luxury goods that Rome imported from across the empire and from the most remote regions. The third and final lamentation is pronounced by the sailors (v. 17b-19). It too opens with the double repetition of "alas" and it ends with the sad discovery: "In one hour she has been laid waste" (v. 19). In the end, an external voice enters the scene and speaks to the just and the victims of the oppressive power: they watch the divine judgment with joy because for them a nightmare is ending and a new horizon of light and peace is beginning (v. 20). By condemning evil, God does justice to good. The judgment of sinners is but one face of a coin whose other side bears the glory of the "saints and apostles and prophets" – the men and women of God – and the triumph of truth and justice.
A powerful angel symbolically enacts the end of imperial Babylon by hurling a millstone into the sea. The city, perhaps imperial Rome, sinks into the vortex of the Mediterranean with all of its baggage of sin. Turned in on its idolatries, the great metropolis did not hear the footsteps of the supreme Judge and the angel of death that were waiting at its gates. Blinded by its pride, in fact, the city had been stained by the most brutal crimes: "In you was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slaughtered on earth" (v. 24). The angel’s symbolic act echoes what Jeremiah did when he read the scroll containing the charges against Babylon and threw it into the Euphrates, shouting, "Thus shall Babylon sink, to rise no more…" (51:60-64). Jesus himself had used the symbol of a millstone tied to the neck and thrown into the sea to indicate the fate of those who caused scandal (Mt 18:6). In effect, Babylon had truly "scandalized" many people and corrupted many nations with its "sorcery." And now it suffers the same fate as the satanic dragon (12:9, 10, 13), the two Beasts (19:20), the devil (20:10), death (20:15), and all those who are not written in God’s "book of life" (20:15): they are all hurled into the depths of nothingness, the depths of hell and silence. If we do not break the bonds that tie us to evil, we run the risk of being caught in its snares and sharing its fate, which is death. The last look at Babylon reveals a panorama of extreme desolation. The city that was once prosperous and lively is now devoid of life. Six times the angel marks the silence of death that like a veil covers the city completely: the music, the sounds, and the joyous voices are extinguished forever.

Memory of the Church

Calendar of the week
Sunday, 15 October
Liturgy of the Sunday
Monday, 16 October
Prayer for peace
Tuesday, 17 October
Memory of the Mother of the Lord
Wednesday, 18 October
Memory of the Apostles
Thursday, 19 October
Memory of the Church
Friday, 20 October
Memory of Jesus crucified
Saturday, 21 October
Sunday Vigil
Sunday, 22 October
Liturgy of the Sunday