Tuesday 16 August 2011

The Woman Adorned with the Sun

St. Louis de Montfort (1673-1716) was perhaps the first mystic to recognise the importance of Our Lady in the approach of the Second Coming of Jesus.  In his Treatise on True Devotion, St. Louis prophesied that Mary would play a prominent role in a battle against Satan during the "latter times":

"If ...as is certain, the knowledge and the kingdom of Jesus Christ must come into the world, it can only be as a necessary consequence of the knowledge and reign of Mary. She who first gave him to the world will establish his kingdom in the world...
The salvation of the world began through Mary and through her it must be accomplished. Mary scarcely appeared in the first coming of Jesus Christ so that men, as yet insufficiently instructed and enlightened concerning the person of her Son, might not wander from the truth by becoming too strongly attached to her...
But in the second coming of Jesus Christ, Mary must be known and openly revealed by the Holy Spirit so that Jesus may be known, loved and served through her. The reasons which moved the Holy Spirit to hide his spouse during her life and to reveal but very little of her since the first preaching of the gospel exist no longer...
In these latter times Mary must shine forth more than ever in mercy, power and grace; in mercy, to bring back and welcome lovingly the poor sinners and wanderers who are to be converted and return to the Catholic Church; in power, to combat the enemies of God who will rise up menacingly to seduce and crush by promises and threats all those who oppose them; finally, she must shine forth in grace to inspire and support the valiant soldiers and loyal servants of Jesus Christ who are fighting for his cause.
It is chiefly in reference to these last wicked persecutions of the devil, daily increasing until the advent of the reign of anti-Christ, that we should understand that first and well-known prophecy and curse of God uttered against the serpent in the garden of paradise. It is opportune to explain it here for the glory of the Blessed Virgin, the salvation of her children and the confusion of the devil. "I will place enmities between you and the woman, between your race and her race; she will crush your head and you will lie in wait for her heel" (Gen. 3:15)...
...the humble Mary will always triumph over Satan, the proud one, and so great will be her victory that she will crush his head, the very seat of his pride. She will unmask his serpent's cunning and expose his wicked plots. She will scatter to the winds his devilish plans and to the end of time will keep her faithful servants safe from his cruel claws. But Mary's power over the evil spirits will especially shine forth in the latter times, when Satan will lie in wait for her heel, that is, for her humble servants and her poor children whom she will rouse to fight against him.
(See the full chapter on Mary's role in the "latter times" here).

It is striking that St. Louis made this prophecy well before the era of modern Marian apparitions beginning with Rue de Bac in 1830, through to La Salette and Fatima and continuing to the present.  The modern apparitions of Our Lady have helped to strengthen and nurture the faith of millions of Catholics worldwide, and as St. Louis foretells, it is through devotion to Our Lady that the head of the Serpent is finally crushed.
As I argue in Unveiling the Apocalypse, the defeat of Satan occurs at his expulsion from the heavenly realm, when the ancient Serpent is cast to earth by the archangel Michael - an event which is heralded by a rare sequence of astronomical omens.
Although Satan's power is broken and the Serpent's head is crushed through the intervention of Mary, the Apocalypse tells us that after the expulsion of Satan from heaven, the Beast rises from the watery chaos of the abyss and Satan transfers his authority to him - so the fatal blow struck to the head of the Serpent appears to be healed:

And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear's, and its mouth was like a lion's mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast.  (Rev 13:1-3)

It is at this moment that the False Prophet/beast from the land causes the peoples of the earth to be sealed with the mark of the Beast.  The Dragon continues to pursue the Woman's seed after he is cast to earth through his servant the Beast from the sea (we should read chapters 12 and 13 side-by-side as a theological diptych rather than as a different chronological sequence of events).  I underscore the importance of disregarding the temporal order of Revelation in the introduction to my book - we should instead be aware of the Apocalypse's use of recapitulation and compare sections with thematic unity to give a fuller picture of the events being described).  But the Woman (who in this instance represents the Church, since Mary often represents the Church in Catholic theology) is helped by God and is given the "two wings of the great eagle" to escape to a place of refuge:

But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (Rev 12:13-17)

I argue in the book that the Woman's escape into the wilderness, and the earth coming to her help, refers to the Second Pentecost which is promised to take place before the end of the world.  The "two wings" the Woman adorned with the Sun is given to help her during this escape represent the Two Witnesses who will "turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction." (Mal 4:6) 
Before the world is destroyed by fire, God in his infinite mercy grants the world a religious renewal in the Second Pentecost, when the Great Apostasy is overturned and the Gospel is preached to all nations:

“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. (Mal 4:1-2)

The Woman adorned with the Sun will be given the wings needed for the "healing of the nations" (Rev 22:2) - the "two olive trees" that stand before the "Lord of the earth" (Rev 11:4).  Humanity will be given the chance to repent of its sins before the coming of the Antichrist and the final day of reckoning, so that the Church can dress itself in virginal linen and become the Heavenly Jerusalem before it meets its Bridegroom.

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