And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them; He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”
When Jesus stood in front of people and spoke, all some people could see was a somewhat scruffy manual laborer with a bit of Galilean twang in His speech. He ate, drank, slept, and washed like the rest of us. He was, to a certain sort of eye, ordinary. When Peter looked, and then looked again, and kept looking more deeply, he saw in, with and through that ordinariness, “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Peter received mystical insight from the Father Himself and realized that, standing in front of him, against all likelihood or hope, was the very power that hurled the Andromeda Galaxy, led Israel from bondage, and created all that is seen and unseen. It is with that same mystical double vision that John sees the Church in today’s verse. Where you and I might see double-chins, a squabbling parish council, a priest with lousy taste in music, or a bad RCIA program, John reminds us to look again, keep looking more deeply and recognize what the truth is: here is the Bride of Christ, adorned for her husband. And there, on that ordinary altar at that ordinary Sunday morning Mass, is the mystical Lamb of God, offering himself in the Marriage Feast of Lamb and dwelling with us. Already, death has been defeated. It’s been dead for 2,000 years. Already, the worst thing that can ever happen has happened. Already, Christ has turned it into the best thing that will ever be. Behind the thin veil of the ordinary, the awesome mystical fire of the Trinity is burning at the heart of the Church, right there on that altar. Today, see the Church with John’s vision and rejoice, for the former things have passed away!