By Pamela Lewis
A Reading from Revelation 19:11-16
11 Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse! Its rider is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, wearing fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”
Michael Morpurgo’s novel War Horse taught me the importance of the horse in warfare. Thousands of horses were used — and perished — in World War I. Literature abounds with tales of warriors mounted on trusty steeds to defeat foes, and battles have been both won and lost on the strength of a horse: Pegasus, who helped Bellerophon kill the Chimera; Vigilant, the mount in The Song of Roland, who helped fight the Saracens; and the horse whom Richard III blamed for the loss of his kingdom. Then there are, of course, all the horses in classic American stories and films, whose riders saddled up to set things right or wreak havoc.
In biblical times, most soldiers were foot soldiers; having a horse was a significant advantage. Horses denoted honor, power, and speed. A white horse signified victory. John’s vision is the dramatic culmination of all the chapters that preceded them, the climax of the revelation of Jesus Christ returning to earth in power and glory. He who rode into Jerusalem on a docile donkey now rides triumphantly with his army, all on white horses.
This is a vision in its fullest sense, in that no one utters a word. There is only witnessing, no speaking, and as we, like Saint John, look upon this magnificent being, his identifying names are revealed to us: Faithful and True, as the One who keeps his promises; the Word of the Lord, as the Logos which he embodies; and King of King and Lord of Lords. Some scholars believe that “the name written, that no one knew except himself” (v. 12) may actually be the tetragrammaton, YHWH, the sacred and secret name of God. Whichever grand name Christ bears, his greatest name is love, which is also the power of his victory. As it says in Psalm 20:
Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we will call upon the Name of the LORD our God. (v. 7)
Pamela A. Lewis taught French for thirty years before retirement. A lifelong resident of Queens, N.Y., she attends Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, and serves on various lay ministries. She writes for The Episcopal New Yorker, Episcopal Journal, and The Living Church.
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Today we pray for:
All Saints Church, Chevy Chase, Md.
The Diocese of Ho (Church of the Province of West Africa)