THE WOMAN OF REVELATION
Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm.
A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed
with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and
on her head a crown of twelve stars.
She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as
she labored to give birth. Then another sign
appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon,
with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads
were seven diadems. Its tail swept away a third
of the stars in the sky and hurled them down to
the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman
about to give birth, to devour her child when she
gave birth. She gave birth to a son, a male
child, destined to rule all the nations with an
iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his
throne. The woman herself fled into the desert
where she had a place prepared by God, that there
she might be taken care of for twelve hundred
and sixty days.
The Ark of the Covenant as described in the Old Testament Book of Exodus was the sanctuary for the Holy of Holies, the tabernacle in which was the dwelling-place of the Lord. In the Book of Revelation, the Ark of the Covenant precedes the "Woman clothed with the sun," as described in the above passage. Just as the Ark of the Covenant was the dwelling-place filled by the presence of the Lord God, the Blessed Virgin Mary became the dwelling-place for Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh, as described in the Gospel of Luke.
Who is the Woman clothed with the sun? St. John in his Gospel was the first to implicitly refer to Mary as the new Eve, the woman of Genesis 3:15. St. John's Gospel refers to Mary, the mother of Jesus, as woman at the wedding feast at Cana (John 2:1-5), at the Cross (John 19:25-26), and here in Revelation 12:1. The word woman suggests deep symbolism, as "woman" was not the customary or polite way in Semitic cultures to refer to a mother. Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ, the Messiah who will rule with an iron rod (Psalm 2:9), and who is caught up to God and his throne (Revelation 12:5). Reaffirming the Tradition of the Church, Pope Pius X in 1904, Pope Pius XII in 1950, and Pope John Paul ll, in his 1995 encyclical The Gospel of Life, stated that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the "woman clothed with the sun" in Revelation 12:1.
The woman also serves as a collective symbol for both Israel and the Church. She is Israel, the Daughter of Zion, the nation from whom the Messiah comes, the community of faith and obedience that awaits the birth of the Messiah (Isaiah 66:7). In Hebrew a country is expressed in the feminine tense, as mother of her inhabitants. The symbol clearly refers to the Church, for Jesus at the Cross gives his Mother Mary to his disciple (John 19:26-27). The Church are the faithful disciples of Christ, whom the dragon in Revelation 12:17 went "to make war with the rest of her offspring who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus."
The ending of the twentieth century has witnessed an overwhelming number of reported appearances of Mary, suggesting we are entering the end times prophesied by the Book of Revelation. While public revelation - the Bible - is a matter of faith, one does not have to accept private revelation, such as apparitions. However, one cannot ignore the profound effect of historical apparitions such as Guadalupe, Lourdes, and Fatima. The following is a list of the approved Apparitions of Mary.
APPARITIONS OF MARY
|Mount Carmel, England
|Rue de Bac, Paris
|La Salette, France
Appearances of Mary are still being reported all over the world, such as Borg in-Nadur, Malta; Medjugorje, Bosnia-Hercegovina; and Kibeho, Rwanda.
While these recent appearances are still under investigation by the Catholic Church, one can hear the common themes that echo through the ages, especially now as we enter the third millennium. This is a time for repentance, prayer, reading Scripture, fasting, and frequent reception of the Sacraments. It is time for us to be examples of love, mercy, and peace, as our modern world continues to fall away from the Ten Commandments of God and the Eight Beatitudes of Jesus.
May God bless you and help you keep the faith!