Et data est ei coronavirus?—Are we living in Apocalyptic times?

March 31, 2020
Source: Priory Wanganui

Et vidi: et ecce equus albus, et qui sedebat super illum, habebat arcum, et data est ei corona, et exivit vincens ut vinceret — And I saw: and behold a white horse, and he that sat on him had a bow, and there was a crown given him, and he went forth conquering that he might conquer. (Apoc. 6:2)

This question—are we living in Apocalyptic times—was already common in the early Church.

St Augustine has a very interesting letter1 in which he warns us not to put a date on such events, and particularly not to “foretell” that the end of times in going to happen within our lifetime. He founds his teaching on the very clear warning of our Lord Jesus Christ, saying “no one knows the day nor the hour!” (Mt. 24:36)

The principle to interpret the Apocalypse in conformity with the way the Fathers of the Church have interpreted it is to acknowledge that there are many precursors of the Antichrist, who have some (but not all) characteristics of the Antichrist. So this particular line, or that other particular line of the Apocalypse may seem very appropriate to our particular times—and indeed it may be. But it does not follow from such fact that the end of time will certainly happen within our lifetime. It may, it may not: no one knows the day nor the hour. Thus a Luther, a Hitler, a Stalin (and many others) are precursors of the Antichrist; but when the Antichrist himself shall come, he will have the malice of them all together.

When the Roman world fell, and Rome was sacked by the Goths in A.D. 410, many faithful thought it was the end of the world. It was the end of the Roman world, but the Church continues and mankind continues. It is possible that we approach an end of the “Western World”, but it is likely that mankind will continue and it is certain that the Church will continue.

In the apocalypse, we see the dragon drawing a third of the stars, and our Lord predicted that “the sun shall be darkened and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be moved” (Mt. 24:29). One may see in these words a prophecy of the fall of bishops, and of the Popes being darkened and the Church of Rome no longer giving their light. This is the “spiritual understanding” recommended by St Augustine2, but one would be wrong to say: "The Scriptures teaches this." The truth is that the Scriptures gives basis to our understanding. When all History will be completed, all the facets and elements of the big picture will be completed and then – only then – the whole picture will appear in its fulness. The beauty of the Providence of God—and of the prophecies—will be evident to all to see. But before then, it is like an unfinished puzzle: we are still puzzled by it!

Somehow, Divine Providence will make sure that anyone who has pretended to announce particular dates for the end of the world will be proven false. So that the words of our Lord will be manifestly true: “no one knows the day nor the hour”.

All this being said, it is good for us to desire the return of Christ, to long for it. But such desire must instil in us a zeal to prepare ourselves for His return by personal sanctification and the practice of good works. “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked” (Apoc. 16:15). That “garment” is the white robe of our Baptism—i.e. the State of Grace, free from mortal sin. Without it, we would merit to hear: “Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?” (Mt. 22:12), and the sentence would be pronounced against us: “Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt. 22:13).

Let us follow the example of the Saints, who were found faithful, especially the “Virgin most faithful!”

  • 1. Epistola n.199
  • 2. Ibid.