Memory of the Mother of the Lord

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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 6,9-17

When he broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of all the people who had been killed on account of the Word of God, for witnessing to it.

They shouted in a loud voice, 'Holy, true Master, how much longer will you wait before you pass sentence and take vengeance for our death on the inhabitants of the earth?'

Each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to be patient a little longer, until the roll was completed of their fellow-servants and brothers who were still to be killed as they had been.

In my vision, when he broke the sixth seal, there was a violent earthquake and the sun went as black as coarse sackcloth; the moon turned red as blood all over,

and the stars of the sky fell onto the earth like figs dropping from a fig tree when a high wind shakes it;

the sky disappeared like a scroll rolling up and all the mountains and islands were shaken from their places.

Then all the kings of the earth, the governors and the commanders, the rich people and the men of influence, the whole population, slaves and citizens, hid in caverns and among the rocks of the mountains.

They said to the mountains and the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us away from the One who sits on the throne and from the retribution of the Lamb.

For the Great Day of his retribution has come, and who can face it?'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Lamb continues to open the seals, that is, to reveal the deeper meaning of human history. When the fifth seal is opened, the ranks of martyrs appear, that is, "those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given." They are "under the altar," next to Jesus. It is perhaps in response to this scene that the altars in ancient Christian basilicas were built over the places where the bodies of martyrs were buried, and every altar still contains relics of saints and martyrs today. When Cain kills Abel in the book of Genesis, it is the Lord himself who says: "[the] blood is crying out to me from the ground!" The millions of martyrs of the twentieth century come to mind: the bishops, priests, religious and faithful men and women of all kinds, belonging to the different Christian confessions, who gave their testimony to the point of shedding their own blood. Their voice reaches all the way to the altar in heaven. Even if they were mostly ignored, even by us, the Lord has listened to them. And it was their blood that did not allow the human history of the twentieth century to plunge definitively into the chasm of Evil and death. They stand before our eyes and they illuminate our steps. They remind us that "martyrdom," that is, "giving one’s life for others," is the essence of the Gospel and consequently the essence of every disciple’s life. Their testimony made the Church of the end of the second millennium a martyr again, like the Church of the beginning of the first millennium. Their song is a great universal invocation for the entire world to convert, to abandon violence, to walk on the path of peace, and to turn indifference into love, injustice into mercy, and hatred into forgiveness. The sixth seal demonstrates what will happen to creation and, above all, to those who create violence if this conversion does not take place: there will be earthquakes and solar eclipses, the moon will turn red, the stars will fall, the sky will vanish, and the mountains and islands will be torn from their foundations. Nothing, not even the public authorities, will be able to protect us from the eruption of God’s justice when he illuminates every one of life’s dark corners with the light of day. They will call for help and protection in vain. The "great day" is coming, the day of God’s intervention in history, the day sung by the prophets (Amos 5:16-20). It is not only God’s "day of wrath," it is also the Lamb’s, "gentle and humble in heart" (Mt 11:29). Even Christ bears the face of a severe judge. The Apostle wonders who can stand upright before God. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that only the ones who will be able to stand upright are those who bend to love. They will hear the Lord say: "I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink."