Wednesday 25 December 2013

Our Lady of Zeitoun and the Flight into Egypt

For those readers who have not got round to reading some of my earlier posts, I thought it might be worth re-posting a previous article dealing with the apparitions of Our Lady of Zeitoun. Although they did not actually begin during the period of Advent itself, thematically, they are the most Christmas-focused of the modern apparitions that have been approved by the Catholic Church. And given the symbolic nature of their content, I believe they are the most important Marian apparitions next to Fatima.

Merry Christmas everyone!

During the season of Advent, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect some more on the significance of the apparitions of Our Lady in Egypt (affectionately known to believers as Our Lady of Light), and their remarkable paralells to the vision of the Woman adorned with the Sun described in the Book of Revelation. Despite being witnessed on an unprecedented scale by hundreds of thousands, if not millions of individuals, these apparitions have been widely overlooked by the Western media, and indeed by many Catholics. The apparitions of Our Lady of Light, which have occurred from April 1968 to the present (the most recent of which being in October 2011 - see my earlier post Our Lady Appears in Egypt Again) are the only known precedent of the category of visions known in Catholic theology as visio sensibilis (an actual physical manifestation) to be witnessed on such an extraordinary scale. (You can find many excellent articles detailing these apparitions at the Zeitoun website, Miracle Hunter, and Medjugorje USA, amongst others).
The only other Marian apparition witnessed on a comparable scale is that of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, which again is to be differentiated from those of Our Lady of Light in the fact that the Virgin  Mary could only be seen by the three shepherd children. Instead of receiving visions of Our Lady, the crowds at Fatima witnessed the Sun spinning and dancing in the sky at the Cova de Iria .The Miracle of the Sun itself may have been a combination of unusual weather phenomena with the visio imaginativa class of vision (which whilst fully visible to the seer, these apparitions are perceived only through the mind's eye), since there was a small minority of people who could not see what the rest of the crowd were experiencing.  We must also keep in mind that the numbers of those who have witnessed the apparitions of Our Lady of Light far outweigh the estimated 70,000 people present during the Miracle of the Sun.
Despite being officially recognised as authentic by the local Cardinal Patriarch, the fact that Our Lady chose to appear over Coptic churches in Egypt, rather than Catholic churches elsewhere in the world has baffled some commentators, and can perhaps explain the lack of adequate devotion to these apparitions amongst Catholics.  It seems that many have failed to recognise the true significance of these apparitions lies above all in their timing and location. The Virgin Mary chose to appear over Coptic churches for two very simple reasons - firstly because she is re-tracing the steps of the Holy Family's flight into Egypt (and the vast majority of churches in Egypt are Coptic, especially those in locations associated with the sojourn of the Holy Family), and secondly, that despite not being in full communion with Rome, they show that Our Lady has deep love and respect for the Coptic Church, which like the rest of Oriental Orthodoxy, as well as the Eastern Orthodox Church, offers a great devotion to her.
While some have recognised that Our Lady is in some way re-enacting the journey of the Holy Family during their flight into Egypt, none (to my knowledge) have went on to ponder the primary reason for their escape into the Egyptian wilderness and attempt to re-apply the same conditions to a modern context; or compare them with the account of Woman adorned with the Sun given in Rev 12 - which is basically the story of the nativity seen through an apocalyptic lens. 
The main and indeed only reason that the Holy Family fled into Egypt, was to escape from King Herod, who in an attempt to quash any potential Messianic usurpers to his throne, had ordered the massacre of any infants in the vicinity of Bethlehem under two years of age:

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.
(Matt 2:13-21)

If we compare the above passage in the Gospel of Matthew with the account of the Woman adorned with the Sun in Rev 12, we can see that this portion of the Book of Revelation is an apocalyptic version of the story of the nativity:

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days. (Rev 12:1-6)

This portion of the Apocalypse is recapitulated again after a brief interlude describing the "War in Heaven" between the archangel Michael and Satan, who is cast from the heavenly throne room to earth:

And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 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. And he stood on the sand of the sea.(Rev 12:13-17)

The equation of the Woman adorned with the Sun with the Virgin Mary is a long standing tradition in the Catholic Church, as is attested by the various icons (such as Our Lady of Guadalupe) which depict her as arrayed with the radiance of the Sun, a crown of stars, and with a cresent moon at her feet. This asssociation has recently been re-affirmed by Pope Benedict XVI during his address honouring Our Lady at the feast of the Immaculate Conception on 8th December 2011 (seehere).

The Crescent Moon under the feet of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The "horns" of this crescent shape most likely represent Satan, who positions himself at Our Lady's feet in an attempt to devour her offspring. But ultimately Our Lady is the one who crushes the Serpent's head. The word Guadalupe is thought to be taken from the Aztec Nahuatl word Coatlaxopeuh (pronounced "quatlachupe") which means "the one who crushes the serpent".

The seven-headed dragon which positions itself at the woman's feet, ready to devour her child upon birth represents Herod's intentions to destroy the Child Jesus after his birth in Bethlehem. Herod's attempt to kill Our Lord at birth is also hinted at again later in the chapter, when the serpent pours out flood waters to sweep away the Woman and Child. To escape from this threat the Woman is given the "two wings of the great eagle" and escapes into the wilderness for a "time, times and half a time", or three and a half years - which according to Coptic tradition is exactly the length of time the Holy Family sojourned in Egypt. According to this tradition, after the Holy Family reached Assiut (the location of the apparitions in the year 2000), they turned back to re-trace their journey in the Egyptian wilderness, and when they reached Gabal Dranka (the location of the apparitons during the year 2001) Joseph recieved his dream telling them to go back to the land of Israel. This has led many commentators to suggest  that the year 2000 was the turning point of this re-enactment of the flight into Egypt, with the apparitions now making the homeward journey.

The backdrop of Egypt is doubly significant, as this is the location of the original "slaughter of the innocents" as recounted in the Book of Exodus, which acts as a precusor to Herod's massacre of the infants of Bethlehem:

 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land...”

 ...Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.” (Exod 1:8-10; 22)

And then again later in the Book of Exodus, we are told how the angel of death, or "Destroyer" as he is called in the original Hebrew (which recalls the Destroyer - "Apolloyon" or "Abaddon" of Rev 9), kills the Egyptian firstborn:

 Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you...
(Exod 12:21-23)

 ...At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. (Exod 12:29-30)

It is also interesting to note that the Greek word used for "place" in Rev 12 - topos, is used elsewhere in the New Testament with the meaning of "temple" or "sanctuary". So the passage in Rev 12 could also be translated as "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 temple where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time" - a translation which certainly evokes imagery of the apparitions of Our Lady of Light, which to date have almost exclusively occurred over church buildings.

So once we have determined that the primary reason for the the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt was the "slaughter of the innocents", we can see that this heavenly re-enactment of the nativity was to announce to the world that it was about to partake in a modern day "slaughter of the innocents". I will post a quote from my book Unveiling the Apocalypse on this subject below:

Just as the original flight of the Holy Family into Egypt was necessitated by an act of mass infanticide, these apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Egypt began to appear amidst the backdrop of what was the beginning of the greatest act of infanticide the world has ever known – the legalisation of abortion. The year in which the apparitions in Zeitoun first occurred was a pivotal moment in process behind the legalisation of abortion. The Abortion Act in the UK came into effect during April 1968, the same month the apparitions began to take place. This year also saw President Lyndon Johnson's Committee on The Status of Women publishing a report calling for a repeal of all abortion laws in the US. The implementation of the UK Abortion Act was the major turning point in international abortion law, and was soon to be followed by a host of other nations. By mid-1969 ten US states had loosened their abortion laws, including Colorado, North Carolina, California, Georgia, Maryland, Arkansas, Kansas, Delaware, Oregon and New Mexico. Abortion on demand was eventually established after the US Supreme Court deemed individual state bans on abortion to be unconstitutional following the Roe v Wade case in 1973. 
In France, women seeking an abortion began to travel to the UK to have the procedure after the Abortion Act came into effect in 1968. The relative ease of travelling to the UK to procure an abortion would lead to France revising its own abortion laws, and abortion was finally legalised in France in 1975.
Therefore the appearances of the Virgin Mary in Egypt occurred at the exact moment the floodgates in abortion law had been opened. Was this a heavenly response to the blood of millions of innocents crying from the ground? (Unveiling the Apocalypse 

Marian apparition often occur before periods of great upheaval. Perhaps most famously, Our Lady appeared at Fatima just before the rise of communist Russia - with the miracle of the Sun on the 13th October 1917 directly coinciding with the October Revolution which saw the Bolsheviks rise to power within a month. The other Church approved apparition at Beauraing and Banneux, in Belgium during the years 1932 and 1933 respectively appeared just before the rise to power of Hitler, who was made chancellor of Germany on 30th January 1933 - the same month when the first apparitions at Banneux occurred on the 15th. The apparitions at Kibeho, Rwanda, between 1981-1989 prophesied the Rwandian genocide, which was to claim the lives of an estimated 800,000 people in 1994, including one of the visionaries - Marie Claire. While the significance of the apparitions at Zeitoun are thought by some to be related to the Six Day War of 1967, it is much more likely to concern the legalisation of abortion, given the above background context. The fact that the Six Day War took place before these apparitions would also indicate that the Zeitoun apparitions were not related to this event, since all the other apparitions appeared before the events occurred. Our Lady first began to appear at Zeitoun on 2nd April 1968, and the UK Abortion Act was brought into effect just weeks later on 27th April.
Now that the apparitions of Our Lady of Light are in the process of making the return journey, we are left to reflect upon Matthew's quote of Hosea 11:1: "Out of Egypt I called my Son". During the season of Advent, the Church looks not only to the first coming of Christ, but it also focuses on His Second Coming. The birth-pangs of the Woman adorned with the Sun indicates that the Second Advent is near. Could these apparitions, which appear to be the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy of the Woman adorned with the Sun, signal that God is calling his Son out of Egypt to return to His earthly homeland?

Saturday 14 December 2013

The Mark of the Beast, Eternal Sin, and the Message of the Third Angel

The lower central section of Michelangelo's fresco The Last Judgment

For many Christians, the most unsettling aspect of the prophecy of the mark of the Beast is the idea that a person could forfeit their eternal soul by being "branded" in some way with the number 666 (which the text explicitly reveals is a gematria code for the name of the Antichrist). Yet the notion that anyone's soul could be permanently and irreversibly condemned to eternal torment before they have even met their death is in direct contradiction with the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states that all sins, without exception, can be forgiven in the sacrament of confession (as long as the penitent is truly contrite, and resolves not to sin again):

"There is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive. "There is no one, however wicked and guilty, who may not confidently hope for forgiveness, provided his repentance is honest. Christ who died for all men desires that in his Church the gates of forgiveness should always be open to anyone who turns away from sin."
(CCC 982)

The closest Catholic theology comes to the concept of eternal sin is in reflecting upon Christ's identification of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as the only transgression which cannot be forgiven:

"Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come."
(Matt 12:31-32)

However the Catechism elaborates on the nature of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as an eternal sin, and places this within the context of the obstinate refusal of a person to repent of their sins, in a state of resistance which persists right up to the point of death:

There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss. (CCC 1864)

Pope John Paul II explains the position of the Magisterium on blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as being equated with the ultimate refusal of grace in his encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem:

Why is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit unforgivable? How should this blasphemy be understood ? St. Thomas Aquinas replies that it is a question of a sin that is "unforgivable by its very nature, insofar as it excludes the elements through which the forgiveness of sin takes place."
According to such an exegesis, "blasphemy" does not properly consist in offending against the Holy Spirit in words; it consists rather in the refusal to accept the salvation which God offers to man through the Holy Spirit, working through the power of the Cross. If man rejects the "convincing concerning sin" which comes from the Holy Spirit and which has the power to save, he also rejects the "coming" of the Counselor - that "coming" which was accomplished in the Paschal Mystery, in union with the redemptive power of Christ's Blood: the Blood which "purifies the conscience from dead works."
We know that the result of such a purification is the forgiveness of sins. Therefore, whoever rejects the Spirit and the Blood remains in "dead works," in sin. And the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit consists precisely in the radical refusal to accept this forgiveness, of which he is the intimate giver and which presupposes the genuine conversion which he brings about in the conscience. If Jesus says that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven either in this life or in the next, it is because this "non-forgiveness" is linked, as to its cause, to "non-repentance," in other words to the radical refusal to be converted. 
(Pope John Paul II, Dominum et Vivificantem Article 46, 18th May, 1986)

So according to Catholic theology, the only sin which leads to eternal damnation is the ultimate rejection of God in extremis, which the Catechism equates with blasphemy against the Holy Spirit - who works to fulfill the Lord's desire that all men should be saved (1Tim 2:4). Given that the Church teaches that all sin can be forgiven in the sacraments of baptism and reconciliation, we must accept that this forgiveness extends even to the future scenario when people will knowingly and freely accept the mark of the Beast - as long as they repent of their actions and are absolved by a confessor.
The widely popularized misconception which holds that anyone who accepts the mark of the Beast faces automatic and irreversible eternal damnation, is solely due to the influence of Protestant theologians during the Reformation. Following the concept of predestination forwarded by John Calvin, a prevailing worldview in Protestant theology is that it is impossible for someone to inherit damnation once they accept Christ as their Lord and Saviour, since they have been granted irresistible grace (which can be summarized by the maxim "once saved, always saved").  Conversely, according to Calvinism, it is equally impossible for someone who has already been predestined to hell to eventually break this path to destruction in order to achieve salvation. This view attempts to explain the repercussions behind the omniscience of God, and asserts that if He knew everything that would happen throughout the course of human history in advance of the act of creation, then God must have predetermined every event that has taken place in the universe. Needless to say, the Calvinistic model of predestination (or double predestination), which teaches that God has already preordained not only the fate of elect, but also those who are damned, has some serious implications for upholding not only the omnibenevolence of God and the universal salvific will, but also the reality of individual freewill.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church expressly condemns the Calvinistic idea that God predestines anyone to eternal damnation:

God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance"... (CCC 1037) 

To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of "predestination", he includes in it each person's free response to his grace... (CCC 600)

For Catholics, human nature is inherently wounded by original sin, and we are constantly in need of God's grace - which we receive through the sacraments. No one is impervious to sin (apart from the Virgin Mary, who by a singular grace was conceived free from the stain of original sin), and anyone is free to accept or refuse God's grace at any point in their lives. Given that the Catechism teaches that no-one is predestined to hell, and that reconciliation with God can be attained at any point in a person's life, the notion that anyone can be lost forever by accepting the mark of the Beast is incompatible with the teachings of the Catholic Church. The idea that someone can be forever condemned to hell, without any hope of forgiveness, belongs squarely to a Calvinistic concept of salvation. But since this view of predestination is still held by a large number of Protestants, we can see why such a level of fear is attached to the prophecy of the mark of the Beast in some of the most popular books dealing with the end-times.
Taking the above considerations in mind, we are prompted to contemplate exactly are the spiritual repercussions for accepting the mark of the Beast from a Catholic point of view. First and foremost, in order for any particular action to have any canonical penalties, it has to be first defined by the Magisterium, since it is the Church that binds and looses sin on earth.:

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
(John 20:22-23)

As the Catechism states:

In imparting to his apostles his own power to forgive sins the Lord also gives them the authority to reconcile sinners with the Church. This ecclesial dimension of their task is expressed most notably in Christ's solemn words to Simon Peter: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." "The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to its head." The words bind and loose mean: whomever you exclude from your communion, will be excluded from communion with God; whomever you receive anew into your communion, God will welcome back into his. Reconciliation with the Church is inseparable from reconciliation with God. (CCC 1444-1445)

In other words, the mark of the Beast can only ever be whatever the Church will identify it as, and any canonical penalties would only ever apply once the Magisterium has defined them. Building on this scenario from one of the most popular theories on what form the mark of the Beast will take, if a Catholic decided to have a mircochip implant fitted into their hand or forehead tomorrow in order to buy and sell goods, and the Church remained silent on the matter, then there would be no canonical penalties for doing so. As such, there would be no spiritual consequences for accepting this microchip, since it is only the Church that can bind or loose sin on earth. However if the Church was to later teach that accepting such a microchip implant was in fact the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, and that anyone who does so would be barred from receiving communion, then receiving mircochip implants would at that point have a canonical penalty which could prevent someone from attaining salvation if they continued to use it despite the ruling of the Church. They would thus be cut off from receiving the graces bestowed by the sacraments until they repented of their sin, made a resolution never to use such a device again, and sought absolution from a priest. And if they were to die before they repented of their actions, they would be automatically excluded from the beatific vision. Microchip implants would always have been the fulfillment of the prophecy of the mark of the Beast, but the canonical and spiritual penalties would only apply once the Church has made an official decree. The faithful who had been deceived into accepting the mark would then be forced either to choose to make reparation and cease to use this technology altogether, or continue to use it and render themselves unable to approach the sacraments until they repent of their actions.
Given that we are compelled to believe that the prophecy of the mark of the Beast will one day come to pass (during the final trial of the Church and the age of the Antichrist), we are also compelled to believe that the Church will one day make such a decree, and identify exactly what the mark of the Beast is by imposing a canonical penalty for using it. In fact, it appears that the eventual pronouncement of the canonical and spiritual repercussions for accepting the mark of the Beast by the Church is part of the prophecy itself. Whilst Rev 13 describes how the prophecy of the mark of the Beast comes to fruition (when the False Prophet causes the inhabitants of the earth to be "marked" with the number 666 on the hand or forehead), the spiritual consequences of accepting this mark are not divulged until Rev 14, when the third angel announces that anyone who receives the mark will "drink the wine of God's wrath":

And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God's wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
(Rev 14:9-13)

Up to this point, we are told that the False Prophet causes everyone, from all walks of life, to receive the mark of the Beast:

Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name.
(Rev 13:16-17)

Not only does the False Prophet cause all to accept the mark of the Beast, but we are also told that everyone would be deceived into doing so - meaning that anyone who had received the mark of the Beast up to this point had done so unwittingly. It is only at the proclamation of the message of the third angel that we are made aware of the consequences of accepting the mark of the Beast, and informed that anyone who accepts it afterwards will be faced with eternal damnation if they do not repent of their actions. The message of the third angel is further described as "a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus", meaning that now they have been made fully aware of their situation, the followers of Christ are thus asked to reject the mark of the Beast, and face the extreme hardships that doing so will entail. A voice is then heard in heaven declaring "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on", which forms a deliberate contrast from the fate of those who die without repentance from having received the mark. The call for the endurance of the saints occurs earlier in the Apocalypse, in Rev 13:10, which describes the final persecution of Christians under the Antichrist:

Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear:
If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.
(Rev 13:7-10)

It is worth noting then that the various angels described in the Apocalypse can often symbolize actual figures in the Church. For example, many scholars believe that the oracles to the angels of the seven churches of Asia Minor in Rev 2-3 where most likely originally addressed to the bishops of the respective churches. As such, these oracles addressed to bishops contemporary with St. John contained a prophetic message that transcended the situation in their first century AD context. A famous episode of a historical figure being equated with an angel of the Apocalypse is when St. Bonaventure claimed that St. Francis of Assisi was the angel of the sixth seal - who seals the servants of God on their foreheads (which is a prophecy of the Second Pentecost). So in all probability, the message of the third angel is actually a prophecy of a Church figure (most likely a pope) making an authoritative proclamation which identifies the exact nature of the mark of the Beast, and the canonical penalties that accepting it will incur - an event which we have already established as an essential component in bringing this prophecy to fulfillment.
If (as is commonly believed) mircochip implants are involved in the fruition of the prophecy of the mark of the Beast, the only way it could be definitively established as such is if the Church official proclaims it to be so. However I believe it is far more likely that the Church will eventually identify the mark of the Beast as the current use of internet enabled cell phone technology - which is already set to be the future of all electronic commerce. And if the Magisterium does eventually declare this to be the mark of the Beast, then it actually will be - since it is only the Church that binds and looses sin on earth. There is absolutely no scriptural evidence whatsoever that the mark of the Beast will take the form of a microchip implanted invisibly beneath the skin. And as we have already discussed at length in other posts (such as The Mark of the Beast?), the current use of cell phone technology already meets all of the criteria needed to identify it as the mark of the Beast - which can be summed up as follows:

Transactions through cell phones via NFC technology is widely recognized by economists to be the future of electronic commerce.

All such commerce will be conducted over the worldwide web (www) - which has the numerical value in Hebrew of six-six-six.

Worldwide cell phone penetration already stands at around 91% (see here) - which means most people in the world already own one.

St. John's concept of the mark of the Beast was based on the Jewish practice of wearing phylacteries - small boxes containing portions of Scripture worn on the hand or forehead - i.e. an external object, similar to how a mobile phone is worn.

The Greek word translated as "mark" χάραγμα (charagma) can equally be translated as "crafted or sculpted object".

Cell phones have an innate capacity for evil, and have already had a negative influence on society. The fact that they are currently used for governmental mass surveillance programs shows the immense benefits such technology will provide for the next global dictator (i.e. the Antichrist), who will exploit this to its fullest potential.

With the immanent release of Google Glass, cell phone technology can be worn directly on the forehead.

People would be deceived into accepting the mark of the Beast - meaning they would not be aware of its true nature:

And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. 
(Rev 19:20)

Given their views on predestination, and the erroneous opinion that even accepting the mark in ignorance irrevocably damns a persons soul to hell for eternity, Protestants will be a lot less inclined to accept that the prophecy of the mark of the Beast could already be fulfilled in shape of modern smart phone technology. If the Church does eventually identify cell phones as the fulfillment of the prophecy of the mark of the Beast (and there is certainly enough evidence for it to do so already), then it is not hard to imagine the huge impact such an event would have for the lives of faithful Catholics, who would be immediately faced with immense economic hardship. Whatever the case may be, we can be certain that the Church will one day make a certain and final decision in this regard - the truth of the prophecy of the mark of the Beast is Divinely revealed. And when it does so, the prophecy of the message of the third angel will finally be fulfilled - meaning that ordinary Catholics will either reject the teachings of the Church, or be faced with open persecution by the world's governments...