The Little Scroll

As was the same after the opening of the sixth scroll, there is a great pause in the dramatic action; the audience is waiting with baited-breath for the blaring of the final trumpet, but John inserts a little interlude—a time for contemplative reflection:

These pauses in the action allow the reader to catch his or her breath after the furious onslaught of the plagues, and they increase the dramatic tension of the work. Instead of hearing the final trumpet blast, the reader must wait a while longer. From a rhetorical standpoint, part of the purpose of the interlude is to offer reassurance to the faithful that in spite of the horrible devastation that will be unleashed, they will be protected. (Smyth Helwys Bible Commentary)

The Mighty Angel and the Little Scroll, 10:1-11

Rev 10:1 Then I saw another powerful angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in cloud, with a rainbow over his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were pillars of fire.

Rev 10:2 In his hand he had a small scroll, unrolled; he put his right foot in the sea and his left foot on the land

Rev 10:3 and he shouted so loud, it was like a lion roaring. At this, the seven claps of thunder made themselves heard

Rev 10:4 and when the seven thunderclaps had sounded, I was preparing to write, when I heard a voice from heaven say to me, ‘Keep the words of the seven thunderclaps secret and do not write them down.’

Rev 10:5 Then the angel that I had seen, standing on the sea and the land, raised his right hand to heaven,

Rev 10:6 and swore by him who lives for ever and ever, and made heaven and all that it contains, and earth and all it contains, and the sea and all it contains, ‘The time of waiting is over;

Rev 10:7 at the time when the seventh angel is heard sounding his trumpet, the mystery of God will be fulfilled, just as he announced in the gospel to his servants the prophets.’

Rev 10:8 Then I heard the voice I had heard from heaven speaking to me again. ‘Go’, it said, ‘and take that open scroll from the hand of the angel standing on sea and land.’

Rev 10:9 I went to the angel and asked him to give me the small scroll, and he said, ‘Take it and eat it; it will turn your stomach sour, but it will taste as sweet as honey.’

Rev 10:10 So I took it out of the angel’s hand, and I ate it and it tasted sweet as honey, but when I had eaten it my stomach turned sour.

Rev 10:11 Then I was told, ‘You are to prophesy again, this time against many different nations and countries and languages and kings.’

The use of the angel coming out of the cloud is a contemplative metaphor. As in the Cloud of Unknowing, it bespeaks a form of different vision from what has preceded it—a via negativa, a transcendent message that eclipses mere human experience. John, too, has entered that cloud with the angel and the ensuing message opens up for him his “deeper-mind” that reveals hidden-supernal truths. Despite the immense apparent size of the angel—straddling both earth and sea—his message conveys what is known in mysticism as the “little-way”, as envisioned in the “little-scroll”.

The command not to reveal the message of the thunders is a way of saying that humankind is not privy to all the secrets of God.

Some divine secrets are not to be revealed. To know God completely is beyond human capacity. Keeping the message of the thunders secret preserves part of the mystery of God. As Jesus told his disciples, “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32), so John here informs his readers that some parts of God’s plan are known only to God. (ibid)

Once again here the emphasis is upon that contemplative trope—the hidden things of the Godhead are not revealed to the lesser-spiritual able, but only those who have been sealed with the divine mark.

I went to the angel and asked him to give me the small scroll, and he said, ‘Take it and eat it; it will turn your stomach sour, but it will taste as sweet as honey.’

This reminds me of my seminary days when my Spiritual Director, an aged Ursuline Nun, would always say, “You have to learn to eat the scriptures.” John has adapted the line here from Ezekiel 2:1–3:3, which says to take the scroll and eat it. I believe she meant this verse, but the far greater meaning is the one from Revelation: Yea, the taste is a sweetness to the Spirit, but a bitterness to the flesh. Once again, drawn for a more Contemplative audience. The same can be said for our beloved Sutras, you must take them and eat them—the passages are meant for the Spiritual Mind, not the carnal mind. This is why there are those who cannot partake in this Spiritual Sweetness; for them it’s all old language meant for old monks—very dry and ineffectual. But for the Spiritually-Minded, they are very delectable to the taste. It’s only in this fashion that John was empowered to further prophesy again to the multitudes. Which, of course, during this Christmas time of year proclaims the greatest prophecy of them all—the birth of the Bodhisattvic child of Unborn Light.

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