Though the Lord has established the signs of the coming, the time of their fulfillment has not been plainly revealed. These signs have come and gone with a multiplicity of change; more than that, they are still present. The final coming is like the first.
--Ephrem, 4th century
On that day they will sing this song
in the land of Judah:
"A strong city have we;
[the Lord] sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.
Open up the gates
To let in a nation that is just,
one that keeps faith.
A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace;
in peace, for its trust in you."
Trust in the Lord forever!
For the Lord is an eternal rock.
[The Lord] humbles those in high places,
and the lofty city [the Lord] brings down;
[The Lord] tumbles it to the ground,
levels it with the dust.
It is trampled underfoot by the needy,
by the footsteps of the poor.
APOCALYPSE is the cry of the helpless, who are borne passively by events which they cannot influence, much less control. The cry of the helpless is often vindictive, expressing impotent rage at reality. Apocalyptic rage is a flight from reality, a plea to God to fulfill their wishes and prove them right and the other wrong. Apocalyptic believers could hardly think the saying, "Go, make disciples of all nations," was addressed to them. Had apocalyptic believers dominated the church since the first century, there would have been no missions to unbelievers, no schools, no hospitals, no orphanages, no almsgiving. The helpless cannot afford to think of such enterprises; they can only await the act of God, and then complain because that act is so long delayed. The gospels and epistles rather tell the believers that they are the act of God.
--John L. McKenzie
Return, O God of love, retun,
Earth is a tiresome place;
How long shall we thy children mourn
Our absence from thy face?
--Early American hymn
There were some who spent the savings of several generations on one last spree. Many insulted those they could not afford to insult and kissed those they shouldn't have kissed. No one wanted to end up without confession. The parish priest gave preference to the pregnant and to new mothers. This self-denying cleric lasted three days and three nights in the confessional before fainting from an indigestion of sins.
When midnight came on the last day of the century, all the inhabitants of San Jose de Gracia prepared to die clean. God had accumulated much wrath since the creation of the world, and no one doubted that the time had come for the final blowout. Breath held, eyes closed, teeth clenched, they people listened to the 12 chimes of the church clock, one after the other, deeply convinced that there would be no afterwards.
But there was. For quite awhile now the twentieth century has been on its way; it forges ahead as if nothing had happened. The inhabitants of San Jose de Gracia continue in the same houses, living and surviving among the same mountains of central Mexico--to the disenchantment of the devout who were expecting Paradise, and to the relief of sinners, who find that this little village isn't so bad after all, if one makes comparisons.