I am a “child” of the 60’s, which means I was born in the early 50’s and spent my youth and late adolescence in the thrall of all that was swirling around in our culture in the late 60’s and early 70’s. My experience is probably similar to that of many of my generation – the parents of many of my younger readers.
Things of note from that time:
- A sense that something was “changing” and that young people were part of the force that was bringing about the “change.”
- An apocalyptic sense of time – we thought a new world was about to be born.
- A dissatisfaction with what had gone before. All institutions were questionable.
- An idealization of the ability of human beings to make a difference.
- A narcissism with our own generation. We were wiser than our forebears.
- An impatience with everything.
There was a host of supporting characters – from the military-industrial complex to a parental generation who had endured the Great Depression and World War II and thus could not begin to understand the dissatisfaction with the world around us. How could we be so ungrateful?
The years of the 60’s became a decade in which everything of significance was universally available on the television: each political assasination as well as the upheaval in the South during the Civil Rights Movement was captured on the screen. Everything from rioting to war was an image – not just a story.
Part of the legacy of those years is a latent apocalypticism – a sense of the “end” of things that remains to this day. When the Soviet Empire came to an end, Francis Fukuyama asked whether we had reached the “end of history.” His was an apocalyptic vision of global consumerism.
There is a deeper meaning of the word “apocalypse” and its variations – its original meaning – the revealing of something that has before been hidden. Thus the Revelation to St. John also goes by the name of the “Apocalypse.” What, of course, was hidden and being revealed to St. John was the end of all things. Not a mere moment in history. As strange as the symbols of the book are, there is a very clear conclusion: what is revealed is the triumph of Christ over all things. “The Kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdoms of Our Lord and His Christ and He shall reign forever” (Rev. 11:15). It affirms that the victory of Christ’s Pascha is an eternal Pascha – the true end of history and thus the meaning of all things.
This very “apocalypse” is revealed in every Liturgy, every assemblying of the Church for the marriage supper of the Lamb, the Holy Eucharist. There the “Lamb Who was slain,” is made manifest to us and feeds us in the eternal victory of His Body and His Blood. The great revelation – the true apocalypse – is not to be found in the ephemeral images of beasts and plagues, but in their utter eradication and the resurrection of the world. “For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17). And so it is. For those who have the eyes to see, the apocalypse, the true revelation, is now.
This is not to say that history will have no end. It will and it already has.