-“St John eating the book(scroll)”, 1498, Albrecht Dürer, 398 x 289 mm, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruheone of fifteen woodcuts done on pear wood blocks depicting scenes of the Apocalypse. British Museum, London, UK. Please click on the image for greater detail.
“Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down.”
Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. And he swore by Him Who lives forever and ever, Who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, “There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as He announced to his servants the prophets.”
Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: “Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel Who is standing on the sea and on the land.”
So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but ‘in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’” I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.”
“We who are children of the Father, we hunger for the glory of God and souls to share in that glory. This imagery is captured strikingly by both Saint Catherine of Siena and Our Lord.
First, St. Catherine has a few striking phrases in her Dialogue. While the Father is speaking to St. Catherine, He tells her: “When she [the soul] has attained the third stage of tears, she prepares the table of the most Holy Cross in her heart and spirit. When it is set, she finds there the food of the gentle loving Word—the sign of my honor and your salvation for which my only-begotten Son’s body was opened up to give you Himself as food. The soul then begins to feed on My honor and the salvation of souls….” Or again, “Find your delight with [Christ] on the cross by feeding on souls for the glory and praise of My name.” And even further, “Hungry as they were for My honor and the salvation of souls, [the Saints] fed on these at the table of the most Holy Cross.”
Reading these excerpts, it sounds almost as if God is recommending that Christians eat souls. This sounds quite strange. Is St. Catherine recommending that, perhaps, priests, while in the confessional, start eating souls from imaginary bowls?
In order to illuminate this idea, it is helpful to reference Christ’s hunger for souls and God’s glory. There are at least two instances in the Gospels in which we can see this idea of eating souls and feasting on God’s glory.
In the temptation in the desert, Satan attempts to seduce Christ into making bread out of stones. Christ’s response? “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). We can see here that Our Lord, while fasting and hungry, claims that we are nourished by God’s word. This nourishment is hearty enough to sustain us, even while in the desert fasting.
The second instance in which we see Christ “eating souls and the glory of God” is in the Gospel of Saint John. While the translation is slightly dated, the Douay-Rheims is evocative in this instance. Christ has just won the soul of a Samaritan woman, who has gone to tell the townspeople about her interaction with Christ. Meanwhile, sitting beside the well, Christ’s apostles come to him offering food. His response shows us just how nourishing winning souls for the Kingdom can be: “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, that I may perfect his work” (John 4:34). The use of the word “meat” in this passage communicates the heartiness of the nourishment.
Returning to St. Catherine, the hunger for souls and the glory of God does not mean that we are consuming other people in spiritual cannibalism. Rather, similar to Saint Paul, our love for God manifests itself in a compulsion to spread His name and to feast on His glory that can be thought of as a spiritual hunger (cf. 1 Cor 9:16). We are driven to seek the glory of God and the salvation of souls in the way a starving man seeks food—the desire consumes us.”
“When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; but do not damage the oil and the wine.”
— Revelation 6:5–6 NASB
The third Horseman rides a black horse and is popularly understood to be Famine as the Horseman carries a pair of balances or weighing scales (Greek ζυγὸν, zygon), indicating the way that bread would have been weighed during a famine. In the passage, it is read that the indicated price of grain is about ten times normal (thus the famine interpretation popularity), with an entire day’s wages (a denarius) buying enough wheat for only one person (one choenix, about 1.1 litres), or enough of the less nutritious barley for three, so that workers would struggle to feed their families.
Love, and hungry for my own salvation and that of others. Pray for me.