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The Woman Clothed with the Sun
The most important passage describing an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary is in chapter 12 of Revelation: “A great portent appeared in heaven, a Woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1). St. Mary appeared in almost this very form to an Indian in Guadalupe (Mexico) in 1531. This is not known because of the testimony of Juan, the seer, but because Mary offered us her “photography”: Juan went to the local bishop to tell him that he had seen the Virgin but the bishop did not believe him. In order to convince the bishop, Mary told Juan to go to some place where she would make roses grow in the middle of winter. He did so, picked the roses, wrapped them in his coat and went again to the bishop. At the moment when he unfolded his coat to show the roses to the bishop, the image of the Virgin was printed on the coat (see figure on the left). This finally convinced the bishop of the authenticity of Juan’s claims. The picture was then exposed in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, which became the most important Catholic pilgrimage destination in the world.
Let us return to the Scriptures: most Protestant and even Catholic theologians do not admit that Revelation 12:1 concerns the Virgin Mary, but claim that this passage concerns God’s people or the Church. However, the child the Woman brought about cannot be anyone else than Christ, because the dragon is standing before the Woman attempting to devour him at his birth, which refers to the unsuccessful persecution through Herod (Mt 2). Furthermore, he shall “rule all the nations with a rod of iron” (Rev 12:5), which refers to his nationwide reign through the Church. The same “rod of iron” is holding Christ coming back on earth (Rev 19:11-16). He is also “caught up to God and to his throne” (Rev 12:5). Who else apart from Christ has ascended to Heaven to sit on God’s throne? There is nobody else! So why then refuse to identify the “Woman clothed with the sun” with St. Mary?
It is possible that this denial demonstrates a certain egocentrism consisting in the impossibility of imagining that a single Woman can have more importance than the immense people of God, with which those theologians identify themselves. Yet it is well known that quantity cannot counterbalance quality. So the only thing that counts is the degree of fulfillment of a prophecy even though its extend may be very restricted. This is why the only perfect fulfillment of God’s residence in Zion was realized with Jesus’ conception in Mary’s womb. This realization has a very small scale but is nevertheless above all others.
What one may wonder is whether Revelation 12:1 truly describes a future Marian apparition thousands of years after Jesus’ birth? How to explain such a time shift within the same text? And why is it not just a description of the glory St. Mary enjoys since her Assumption?
To answer these questions, let us first examine the parallel between the male Child of the Woman and “the rest of her offspring, who observe the commandments of God and adhere to the testimony of Jesus”, against whom the Dragon thrown down on earth makes war (Rev 12:13-17). This way, the time shift will clarify: a rest implies that there is another part belonging, together with the rest, to an entire group. This group constitutes all the children of the Woman, of whom only the male Child and the rest of her offspring are mentioned. This is why the other part of the offspring is the male child, although one person against a multitude seems to be an unbalanced distribution. There is however a fundamental difference between Jesus and the rest of his spiritual brothers and sisters, even if they are all Saints.
Since Revelation 12:17 refers to the last Saints (see here), this passage describes a future time, like the preceding chapters. The description of the birth of the Messiah, which in fact belongs to the past, consequently has nothing to do with this historical context and only serves to determine the identity of the Woman and especially to draw a parallel between Jesus’ birth and that of the rest of her offspring. This is the same principle we have already met in Isa 66:7-8, where the daughter of Zion indicates the same parallel: “...before her pain come upon her she was delivered of a son. [...] For as soon as Zion was in labor she brought forth her sons.” This parallel is based on the first three typical phases, that is, on apparition / arrival of the Spirit / growth, of both the live cycles of Jesus in the past and the last Saints in the future.
Furthermore, the sacrifice of Christ, who has defeated Satan, and that of the last Saints, who will defeat him again, make part of the same parallel (Rev 12:7-12). As seen in The life of Jesus Christ, the crucifixion constitutes the phase of sin. This is why the sacrifice of the last Saints constitutes the same phase. As for the phase of judgment, this is the return of Christ on earth with his celestial army exterminating the beast and his followers (Rev 19:11-21) as a consequence of their persecution of the Church and the last Saints (Rev 20:4). Their revival will also be similar to that of Christ, for they will be resuscitated like him, that is, earlier than the rest of mankind at the first resurrection (Rev 20:4-6).
So from this context one can conclude that Revelation 12:1 does not, or not only, describe Mary’s glory in Heaven. It’s a glory visible on earth destined in particular to the last Saints. Its purpose is to direct them on the path to sainthood, as seen in The purpose of the phase of apparition.
The numerous Marian apparitions, which have already taken place in the past centuries and accumulate in our time, are prefigurations of the last apparition referred to by Revelation 12:1, just as the end-time tribulation is prefigured numerous times in the past (see here). There is a Marian apparition in Medjugorje (Bosnia), which could be the last one. It began in 1981 and continues to this day on the basis of monthly messages consisting in admonitions to a humanity living in sin with insistent appeals to conversion. In her message of May 2, 1982, the Virgin Mary announced there:
I have come to call the world to conversion for the last time. Afterwards, I will not appear any more on this earth.
She also predicted a punishment of the world in the form of seven distinct events, growing in gravity and preceded by three warnings that will serve for conversion. This calls to mind one of the three-times-seven apocalyptic events, that is, the seven seals (Rev 5-7), the seven trumpets (Rev 8-11) or the seven cups (Rev 16). The visionaries are the only ones who know what exactly will happen and will reveal these ten events three days before their achievement.
There is a tendency to minimize the gravity of these seven events and to think that they have no relation with apocalyptic events. Thus, when the Chernobyl disaster happened, one wondered whether this was the realization of one of the ten events. However, it was not, neither was the Bosnian War between 1992 and 1995, which was already rather apocalyptic, nor any other event in recent history. Correspondingly, the seven events must be worse. We will see if they will have an apocalyptic reach.
In 1917 at Fatima, however, St. Mary announced that World War I would end soon – and indeed it ended in 1918 – but that an even more devastating war would break out if humanity continued to live in sin. This prophecy was realized with World War II. From 1961 to 1965 she appeared to four young girls at Garabandal in Spain announcing a warning, miracle and chastisement. The warning shall arrive in order to stop a violent return of communism in Europe and consist in a spiritual experience felt by everyone independently of faith. During this short experience often called illumination of conscience, we shall see ourselves with the eyes of God, our sins and all its terrible consequences. The miracle shall happen around Garabandal and consist in a manifestation in the sky. All persons present who will see it will be healed from all physical diseases. The chastisement refers to events having great impact on the world, but it shall not be a nuclear holocaust during a third World War. Such an event shall never arrive, which, however, does not exclude that the chastisement refers to the end-time tribulation.
So is it really appropriate to give way to the general tendency to minimize all that is related to St. Mary’s apparitions? Of course, it pertains to the Church to pronounce on the authenticity of a specific apparition. Though, as long as no decision is made, one is free to believe whatever one wants. If there had never been people accepting a sincere sentiment of faith rising up from the interior of their conscience without waiting for an official decision, which always takes much time and normally is not pronounced before the end of an apparition, the Church would never have had to decide anything about apparitions.
One should not underestimate Mary’s apparitions because they will not last eternally and represent a time of grace in the middle of disorder. If one does not profit from this time and gives way to doubt, one acts as Sarah and Zechariah, who doubted the persons appearing to them. If one accepts them though, one acts precisely as Mary, who replied to Gabriel with perfect confidence: “I am the servant of the Lord, let it be with me as you say” (Lk 1:38). So let us be like Mary and take her as model to imitate.
What deserves a small detour as a conclusion to the topic of Marian apparitions is the question why God extends to Mary “the peace like a river, and the glory of nations like an overflowing stream” (Isa 66:12). Is there not a risk that the Holy Virgin will become more important than God?
During the Protestant Reformation emerged the five solae. One of them is solus Christus (Christ alone), which resumes the claim that salvation comes from Christ alone without intermediaries like priests. There is no need to say that only Christ can save us. However, in doing this the Lord uses the help of intermediaries. Christian faith is transmitted from generation to generation. So without intermediaries it could never have survived 2000 years.
A similar sola is soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone), which is behind the refusal Protestant Christians to venerate Saints, including Mary. So they probably think that it is not a good idea to imitate Mary rather than Christ? However, the one is not in competition with the other. They complete each other. Furthermore, such as we do have both a biological father and mother, we also have both a celestial Father and Mother. Children do not stick to their father alone. Usually, they are even more attached to their mother. The image of a mild heavenly Mother can help to ameliorate the perception of the Father, which is unfortunately easily associated with powerful men and their often authoritarian and impassive behavior.
In order to repair this false image, the Father sent us his Son, who washed the feet of his disciples to show them that he is a servant and not a powerful king looking for being served (Jn 13:1-16; Mat 23:11-12). This is also why he died at the cross rather than to become a political Messiah, as seen in The wedding at Cana. For the same purpose of preventing to associate God’s image with an authoritarian, punishing and irritable person, the Father directs us to Jesus’ Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is like God’s mirror: by sending his light from an unexpected direction, God surprises and thereby enables us to discover him under a new unexpected image of a caring Father, whose love is not a cold and abstract theological concept but a real and tangible living experience.
This principle is even prefigured by the celestial bodies: as we have seen several times, the Sun is an image of God (see here). Now, Mary is the Bride of God (see here). This is why the Moon is an image of Mary, because the Moon has almost the same apparent disc size than the Sun. As seen in The purpose of the phase of apparition, the relationship between God and Mary is fruitful. Therefore, the stars in the sky are an image of the children of God. Furthermore, the Moon reflects the light of the Sun. This is why the Virgin Mary likewise redirects the light of God and appears “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet” (Rev 12:1). So the Father sends his love on the Mother in order to present himself under the warm and gentle image of the Holy Virgin, taking into account that we may possibly be intimidated by our representation of the omnipotent Creator of heaven and earth.
The white light of the Moon, which shines in the darkness, also draws to mind Isaiah 60:1-2:
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you [Zion]. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples. But the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.
Hence, there is no soli Deo Gloria since God’s glory is put upon Zion, who shall illuminate the peoples living in darkness, which is an allegory for our civilization living in sin and fruitlessly searching for truth in all possible domains. But there is hope if we let ourselves illuminate by the soft light of the Blessed Virgin, who is concerned with our well-being as no other Mother, while being aware that her virtues come from the heavenly Father.
 The picture was analyzed several times, among others by Nobel Prize winner Richard Kuhn, who stated that the colors are made of unknown chemical substances. It has also been observed that the colors change according to the angle of observation. This effect is called iridescence and can be observed on certain butterflies. It is due to quantum effects by structures in the realm of nanometers, so impossible to manufacture at this time. There are a lot of other facts that prove that the picture is of supernatural origin (Francis Johnston, The Wonder of Guadalupe, 1981).
 Robert Faricy / Lucy Rooney, Mary Queen of Peace: Is the Mother of God Appearing in Medjugorje?, 1985.
 René Laurentin, Apparitions at Medjugorje Prolonged: A Merciful Delay for a World in Danger, 1987.
 The Sun has a radial visual angle varying from 15' 44" to 16' 16", the Moon has one from 14' 42" to 16' 46", which means that the area of the Sun’s disc is maximally up to 23.6% bigger than the Moon’s disc, which in turn surpasses the Sun maximally for only 14.3%. There is no other satellite in the Solar system that comes as near to the Sun as the Moon. It seems that Perdita orbiting around Uranus reaches the next closest values: if one stood on Uranus, one would see Perdita between 35.3% and 62.8% bigger than the Sun. It is worth to mention also that Mars has 2, Jupiter 67, Saturn 62, Uranus 27 and Neptun 13 known satellites, while the Earth had only one “attempt” to form a satellite. So it is certainly no coincidence that the visual angles of the Sun and the Moon come so close together.
 We can thereby conclude that the duality Sun / Moon also reflects that of man / woman (see note 24), from which we discover other surprising similarities: as the average solar disc seen from Earth is slightly bigger than the lunar disc (see note above), similarly the height of the man – and especially the size of his head – is slightly bigger as compared to that of the woman (without inferring from this whatsoever difference in intelligence). Another similarity is as follows: one sees stars only during the night and the Sun only during day, while the Moon is visible day and night, but more during night. The Moon is therefore closer to the stars than the Sun. This image expresses the fact that the woman is closer to children than the man, and at a higher level that Mary is the Mother of God’s children. From this, another similarity arises: women have phases of fertility of about seven days around ovulation during their menstruation cycle, which recurs with almost the same time periods as the lunar phases, that is, in a bit more than twenty-nine days. So the new moon symbolizes barrenness and the full moon fertility, which is a traditional belief of diverse cultures. Since Marian apparitions signify spiritual fertility between God and Mary, they are prefigured by lunar phases.
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