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The identity of the Woman
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 26). 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). 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”. 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 does not equal quality. This is why the kernel of a prophecy may have very little scale because the only thing that counts is the degree of fulfillment. As an example, the perfect fulfillment of God’s residence in Zion was realized with Jesus’ conception in Mary’s womb, as we have seen (see here). 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? However, not only have we seen that Zion’s glory equals supernatural manifestation, but also the context in which her glory is situated is particularly apt to identify it as an apparition of Blessed Mary.
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 also 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 which only the male Child and the rest of her offspring are mentioned. This is why the other part 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 The last Saints), 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 solely 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 can only be based on the common denominator of the first three typical phases, that is to say on apparition / arrival of the Spirit / growth (see Apparition and Spirit).
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 we know, the crucifixion constitutes the phase of sin (see The life of Jesus Christ). 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) (see also The overlapping of the phases). 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).
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 last tribulation is prefigured numerous times in the past (see here). There is a very important Marian apparition in Medjugorje (Bosnia) starting in 1981 and continuing to this day (see www.medjugorje.org or www.medjugorje.com). 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. The visionaries are the only ones who know what exactly will happen. They will reveal these ten events three days before their achievement.
There is a tendency to minimize the gravity of the 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. If they will have an apocalyptic reach, we shall see. 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. Now, in a similar context, that is, giving admonitions to a humanity living in sin with insistent appeals to conversion, Mary announces seven events that call to mind the three-times-seven apocalyptic events. 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.
So one should not underestimate the apparitions at Medjugorje. 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).
What deserves a small detour as a conclusion to the topic of Marian apparitions is the question why God wishes that we love the Holy Virgin so much? Is there not a risk that she will become more important than God? This is what those who believe that salvation comes from Christ alone ask, like Protestant Christians who fear losing him from their eyes. There is no need to say that only Christ can save us, but despite this, God extends to Mary “the peace like a river, and the glory of nations like an overflowing stream” (Isa 66:12). Why is this?
It may be because a large number of persons do not always, in their subjective perception, see God as a source of salvation. There is constantly the risk of associating his image with powerful persons, whom one mostly imagines negatively, that is to say, authoritative, savoring power, impassive to the misery of their subjects, and so on. Who has not already seen God like this and revolted against him?
God remedies this, among others, by projecting his image upon the Holy Virgin Mary, like the sun reflects its light on the moon. This way, God surprises us in receiving his light from an unexpected direction and allows us to discover him such as he truly is. This is why Mary appears “clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet”. So let us impregnate ourselves with the softness and clemency of the Blessed Virgin, who is concerned with our well being as no other mother, while being aware that these virtues come from God. And let us divert our gaze from this false god we often imagine angry, unjust and uncaring, because the true God of love is completely elsewhere.
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 in the realm of nanometers, so it was 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).
The three most important Marian apparitions approved by the Catholic Church took place in Guadalupe (Mexico, 1531), Lourdes (France, 1858) and Fatima (Portugal, 1917).
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 seven seals (Rev 5-7), the seven trumpets (Rev 8-11) and the seven cups (Rev 16).
The moon is effectively an image
of the Virgin Mary, since the sun is an image of God the Father (see
here) and the Virgin Mary is the Bride
of God (see The incarnation prefigured
by Adam). Therefore the stars prefigure the children of God
stemming from this relationship (see
The purpose of the phase of apparition),
for images must be understood in a precise frame. In our context, this
frame is the sky as it is seen from the earth. Thus, the moon dressed
with the light of the sun prefigures the Virgin Mary “clothed”
with the light from God (Rev 12:1). In addition, she stands on the moon,
which emphasizes the analogy. The white light of the moon, which shines
in the darkness, also draws to mind Isaiah 60:1-2 describing the light
of God reflecting itself on Zion, who thus illuminates the people living
in darkness, that is to say, in sin. In fact, most Marian apparitions
took place during the night.
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