What does it all mean? Not that these figures will once actually appear as described on earth. On the contrary, the apocaylptical riders symbolise recurrent aspects of earth’s existence, characteristics of world-evolution with the incidents that mark it. They do not gallop that one ultimate hour through history, but again and again. Whenever certain events take place, it is they, the horsemen, who ride over the world.
Apocalyptical riders — what, exactly, does the adjective signify? Not merely something predicted, but something suggestive of the sense of our transitoriness in the face of eternity, of what becomes of temporal existence when eternity rises to replace it.
From our own human outlook we are apt to feel that existence is complete in itself; that it is the primary, natural, self-understood reality which is the point of departure for all things. Behind it is nothing. Once the natural explanation for a thing has been given, it seems comprehensible and proper. The eternal, on the other hand, is apparently secondary, a mere backdrop that can be sensed, hoped or feared; never definitely known, for its existence is too uncertain. One may take it or leave it. It is possible to say — perhaps even with conviction — that it is non-existent, that the temporal is everything.
In the realm of the Apocalypse, the eternal stirs, swells to a tremendous power that pushes in our neat little doors. The temporal, which only a moment ago seemed so self-sufficient and safe, begins to totter. Its very ‘naturalness; vanishes, and it reveals itself as it is: transitoriness in revolt, existing as though God were non-existent. Ripped from its self-complacency and suddenly strange and terrified, its profound questionableness becomes evident. The apocalyptical is that which reveals temporality’s true face when it has been demasked by the eternal.— Romano Guardini, The Lord, Trans. Elinor Castendyk, 502. (via thirstygargoyle)