This is the last of our readings from Mark for Year B of the Lectionary Cycle, and in the new liturgical year, C, where we go after Advent, we shall be reading St Luke, who offers quite a contrast for the Patristic commentator. There will be a reflection on Mark’s Gospel as our second post today. C 451.
It is, Victorinus of Petrovium reminds us, a mistake to think of this passage as an exact chronology, apocalyptic visions are to be read for their meaning, not used to terrify the credulous. St Ambrose sees in the image of the moon one of the churhch, which, when the vices of the flesh stand in the way of celestial light, can no longer borrow the splendour of its light from the sun of Christ; the stars are an image of the leaders of the church who will fall as the bitterness of persecution mounts.
St Augustine comments that when impious persecutors rage beyond measure, and when the fortunes of this world seem to smile upon them and fear leaves them and they say “peace and security” then the powers of heaven shall be moved the stars will fall, and many who had shone brightly as leaders will yeild to the persecutors, and even the strongest will be shaken.
Tertullian reminds us that the Son of Man will come again in the midst of calamities and promises – to the grief of nations and according to the promises he has made to the saints.
It is no wonder, Bede tells us, that ordinary men and women will be troubled at the judgment, the very sight of which makes even the angels tremble. At this last advent he will come, Augustine reminds us, to judge the quick and the dead – and as he told us:
Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
We shall not be able to resist the second coming, so let us not resist his first coming, and let us seek the Lord whilst he is to be found.
Tertullian comments that just as we know from the sproutings of the tree that the summer is coming, so do the great conflicts of the world point towards the end times. But we must not presume we know the hour, for he tells us no one but the Father knows the hour.
Methodius and Origen both remind us that the world will not end, but rather the present order of things will pass away and then the word of God will prevail. God has ordained these things from the beginning, and his faithful should have no fear.