Praising God with the “Four Living Creatures”

A typical Catholic Church building usually has the walls and windows adorned with great artistic designs and symbols, whose spiritual meaning a casual visitor may not immediately grasp. They are not simply for decoration; many of them are representatives of the different mysteries of our Christian faith, while others reflect some imagery descriptions found in the Bible. These designs in the Church should not only be admired from the artistic or sculptural point of view – just like many tourists who visit big Churches and Cathedrals in big cities do – rather, they should help the mind towards the contemplation of the great mysteries of the Godhead and our faith.

Going through the First Reading of today (Rev 4:1-11), we find the sacred author making use of some of these images as he relates his visions. Among other things, St. John – who is believed to be the author of the Book of Revelation – in this vision, talks about the “four living creatures covered with eyes in front and in back” (Rev. 4:6). He goes on to mention what each of the living creatures looks like, making use of these four images: lion, calf, the face of a man, and flying eagle. To understand the meaning of these symbols, we need to go back to the Old Testament. In Ezekiel 1, we have a description of “four living creatures”. In Ezekiel 1:10, we are told that on the right side they had the face of a man, and the face of a lion. On the left side they had the face of an ox, and the face of an eagle. These are the identical symbols of the Living Creatures in the first reading of today.  As I was going through this reading, what readily came to my mind was one of the interesting Christian symbols known as the “tetramorph”. This usually refers to the iconogrophic convention in which the Four Evangelists are represented in forms of animals arranged into one symbolic unit. One of the most acceptable traditions represents Matthew as a man, Mark as a lion, Luke as an ox, and John as an eagle. 

Now, what is the role of these Four Living Creatures? Our reading tells us that day and night, they continuously praise God, proclaiming his majesty and holiness. Friends, this is what we are called to do daily. No wonder the Responsorial Psalm of today (Psalm 150 – the last psalm) echoes the same sentiments of praise and thanks to God. What a beautiful way to end this precious Book of prayer and praise, the Psalms. The psalmist leaves us with a direct encouragement to praise God always. Friends, remember to praise him every day, no matter what might be the situation. Even in the midst of a pandemic that is ravaging the world, with many people dying and some businesses crumbling, we must continue to praise God, remembering the words of St. Paul: “Rejoice always, pray continuously, and give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:16-18). Do not lose hope. Praise God today for the gift of life. St. Margaret Mary Alacoque once said: “Would that I could exhaust myself in acts of thanksgiving and gratitude towards this Divine Heart, for the great favor He shows us.” One of the most precious gifts ever is life.

Let us conclude with this admonition from St. Josemaria Escriva: “Get used to lifting your heart to God, in acts of thanksgiving, many times a day. Because he gives you this and that. Because you have been despised. Because you haven’t what you need or because you have. Thank him for everything, because everything is good.” 

Have you praised God today?

Peace and blessings to you. 

[Readings: Rev 4:1-11; Lk 19:11-28]

Fr. John Bosco Obika

Fr. John Bosco Obika

Fr. JohnBosco Obiako is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Orlu, Nigeria. He is a doctoral student of Philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome - Italy, with a special interest in Philosophy and Ethics of technology. He also provides spiritual and pastoral services as Chaplain to African Anglophone Catholic Community in the Diocese of Prato, Italy. Email contact: OBIAKOJOHNBOSCO@GMAIL.COM

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Dwayne Kelly on November 18, 2020 at 2:22 pm

    If you know, or have the means to contact him, please tell Fr. Joseph Dube that all is well with his friend from Louisiana, Dwayne Kelly, and I appreciate the phone messages from him! God Bless him!

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