Revelation 1:12-20: The vision of the son of Man

British Library
Add MS 35166

This is the second post in my series on the Book of Revelation with the aid of notes by St Bede the Venerable (and others).  Today a look at the second half of chapter one, which starts describing the vision St John is told to tell the churches:

Et conversus sum ut viderem vocem, quæ loquebatur mecum: et conversus vidi septem candelabra aurea:
And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks:

St Bede sees the candlesticks as representing the Church:
Here the figure of the Church is beautifully represented, as holding forth the light of divine love in the brightness of a chaste breast, according to that which the Lord saith, "Let your loins be girt, and your lamps burning."
The number of candlesticks, he suggests, denotes perfection, being made up of three, standing for God (the Trinity), and ourselves (the body being thought to have been made up of four properties, fire, earth, water and air).  We should therefore 'love the Lord God with all our heart, all our soul, and with all our strength'.

et in medio septem candelabrorum aureorum, similem Filio hominis vestitum podere, et præcinctum ad mamillas zona aurea:
And in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, one like to the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.

St Bede interprets this as referring to the ascended Christ, with the robe denoting his priesthood:
..."Proderis," which is called in Latin, "tunica talaris," and is a sacerdotal vestment, shews the priesthood of Christ, by which He offered Himself for us, as a victim to the Father, upon the altar of the cross.  By the "paps" he here means the two Testaments, with which He feeds the body of the saints in communion with Himself. For the golden girdle is the choir of saints, which cleaves to the Lord in harmonious love, and embraces the Testaments, "keeping," as the Apostle says, "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
caput autem ejus, et capilli erant candidi tamquam lana alba, et tamquam nix, et oculi ejus tamquam flamma ignis:
And his head and his hairs were white, as white wool, and as snow, and his eyes were as a flame of fire,

St Bede suggests that white depicts immortality:
The antiquity and eternity of majesty are represented by whiteness on the head, to which all the chief ones adhere, as hairs, who, because of the sheep which are to be on the right hand are white, like wool, and because of the innumerable multitude of the white-robed and the elect, who come forth from heaven, are glistering like snow.
He sees the eyes of flame as referring to those who preach the Gospel:
The eyes of the Lord are preachers, who, with spiritual fire, bring light to the faithful, and to the unbelieving a consuming flame.
et pedes ejus similes auricalco, sicut in camino ardenti, et vox illius tamquam vox aquarum multarum:
And his feet like unto fine brass, as in a burning furnace. And his voice as the sound of many waters.

St Bede sees this the reference to his feet as a reference to the persecution of the Church:
By the "fiery feet" he means the Church of the last time, which is to be searched and proved by severe afflictions. For orichalcum is brass, which by much fire and various ingredients, is brought to the colour of gold. 
The voice as the sound of many waters, it is suggested, means the many peoples of the world who are baptized.  Victorinus, for example, comments:
The many waters are understood to be many peoples, or the gift of baptism that He sent forth by the apostles, saying: Go, teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
et habebat in dextera sua stellas septem: et de ore ejus gladius utraque parte acutus exibat: et facies ejus sicut sol lucet in virtute sua.
And he had in his right hand seven stars. And from his mouth came out a sharp two edged sword: and his face was as the sun shineth in his power.

The seven stars again stand for the Church:
In the right hand of Christ is the spiritual Church. "On Thy right hand," he says, "stood the queen in a vesture of gold." And as it stands on His right hand, He saith, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom."
The two-edged sword coming out of his mouth denotes his power to judge:
He, the Judge of all things visible and invisible, "after He has killed, has power to cast into hell fire."
His shining face represents his gifts to the Church:
...this appearance of the Son of Man belongs also to the Church, for He Himself was made the Christ in the same nature with it, and He gives to it a sacerdotal dignity and a judicial power, and to "shine as the sun in the kingdom of His Father."
Et cum vidissem eum, cecidi ad pedes ejus tamquam mortuus. Et posuit dexteram suam super me, dicens: Noli timere: ego sum primus, et novissimus,
And when I had seen him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying: Fear not. I am the First and the Last,

St John now describes his reaction of fear to the vision, but is quickly reassured:
As a man, he trembles at the spiritual vision, but his human fear is banished by the clemency of the Lord.
St Bede explains that Christ: the first, because "by Him were all things made;" the last, because in Him are all things restored.
et vivus, et fui mortuus, et ecce sum vivens in sæcula sæculorum: et habeo claves mortis, et inferni.
And alive, and was dead, and behold I am living for ever and ever, and have the keys of death and of hell.

The keys of death and hell have been bestowed on the Church for our salvation:
Not only, He saith, have I conquered death by resurrection, but I have dominion also over death itself. And this He also bestowed upon the Church by breathing upon it the Holy Spirit, saying, "Whose sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them," and the rest.
Scribe ergo quæ vidisti, et quæ sunt, et quæ oportet fieri post hæc.
Write therefore the things which thou hast seen, and which are, and which must be done hereafter.

This verse reminds us that evil will always be mixed in with good so far as the Church in this world is concerned, according to St Bede:
Reveal to all the things which thou alone hast seen, that is, the various labours of the Church, and that the evil are to be mingled in it with the good unto the end of the world.
Sacramentum septem stellarum, quas vidisti in dextera mea, et septem candelabra aurea: septem stellæ, angeli sunt septem ecclesiarum: et candelabra septem, septem ecclesiæ sunt.
The mystery of the seven stars, which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches. And the seven candlesticks are the seven churches.

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