In the early 8th century, all of Spain fell under Islamic domination.
All? No, for, entrenched in the inaccessible grottos in the heart of the Picos de Europa mountains, some Christians refused to submit. And yet, the invaders' repressive methods had until then quelled any hint of opposition: towns and villages were ravaged and burned, women and children forcibly converted to Islam and reduced to ignominious slavery, and men put to death, most often by crucifixion. In 722, these staunch resistance fighters swore the famous oath of Covadonga: "No Spaniard shall rest as long as the invaders still hold one parcel of the Iberian Peninsula, be it the size of an olive pit."
They founded the Kingdom of Asturias, from whence the entire Reconquista was to spread. In this context, the Book of Revelation to Saint John became the guarantor of their human and Christian hope. None among them doubted that he had a part to play in making this divine revelation come to pass in human history. For this small remnant of witnesses to Christ on Spanish soil, the final book of the Bible gave assurance that, at the battle's end, Christ would come again in glory to crown the victory of the forces of good and inaugurate a thousand-year reign of peace on earth.
The illustration on this month's cover was painted in the heart of this bastion of Christianity in 1047, to bolster its spirit of resistance. Its style achieves a very original synthesis not only of Visigothic and Romanesque influences, but Arab and Coptic ones as well. Picasso was to be fascinated by this naïvely stylized art, and drew inspiration from it, notably for his apocalyptic fresco Guernica.
Represented here, on a background of three blood-red and gold bands, is Christ's Parousia (Second Coming): Behold he is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see him.... Yes. Amen (Rv 1:7). In the heavens, four angels prepare to gather his elect from the four winds (Mt 24:31), that is, from the four points of the compass. Below, on ground made red by the blood of the martyrs, the elect who have survived the time of great distress (Rv 7:14) rejoice: "Blessed is he who comes, Christ the King of the Universe! Peace on earth and glory to God in the highest!"
Pierre-Marie Dumont. "Oh, That You Would Rend the Heavens and Come Down!." Magnificat (November, 2016).
Reprinted with permission of Magnificat.
The AuthorPierre-Marie Dumont is the Founding Publisher of the monthly magazine Magnificat. He is a married layman and the father of a large family. Copyright © 2016 Magnificat
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