Invoke Mary’s help
The Prerogatives of the Woman
All can see it clearly. Revolutions and violence breaking out where formerly there was peace. The problems are never solved. No country is secure because Satan knows the weakness of each country. He touches the raw nerve and the Achilles heel. Unrest, protest, violence, deaths and destruction of a nation’s life follow. The causes lie hidden until the violence breaks forth. Only when it is too late do people see and understand.
Others say, “It cannot happen here. Our country is safe.” You only see the surface of reality. Your foundations have long ago been weakened. The hidden evil flows freely in the sewers beneath your streets, only waiting for the right moment to flow over.
By these words, I bring to light the evil that flows everywhere – in your banking systems, in your political life, in your schools, in your homes and in your hearts. No natural answer exists for these evils.
The world needs a supernatural power which understands and can defeat these evils. Yet, how many will turn to the supernatural? The stakes are high and mounting. I say this clearly. The whole world is at stake. Yes, all of earth is ready to be thrust into Satan’s fire. He will not wait. He sees that a complete and total victory is soon to be in his grasp. Once that happens, he will not wait one moment.
For now, he rejoices in his partial victories (and they are everywhere). However, soon partial victories will be as no victory at all to him, when he will be able to pull everything into his hell on earth.
I wait and I wait. Only the Woman is a match for him. I will fight him everywhere, even in hand to hand combat and I will always win. He knows that and does all he can to delay my coming onto the world stage. My entrance will be late and will happen through my beloved priest son. Until then, all must invoke me. Do not wait. “O Woman clothed with the sun, come and do not delay”. Say that often and I will come into your heart and into every situation.
Comment: Our Lady’s warning and her promise are universal. Everything will either be captured by Satan or by the Woman.
“Clothed With The Sun”
For our Protestant brothers and sisters who stand outside the flow of the great stream of Catholic devotion, no aspect of our faith is less understood and more criticized than our love for and devotion toward the Blessed Virgin. Speaking as one who has taken the plunge from the pier of Protestant piety into the great Catholic stream, I can say from personal experience that the Catholic devotion to Mary is the last aspect of Catholicism to be comprehended by the outsider, yet, to the Catholic, it is as natural and normal as the love of a child for his mother.
The desire which gives impulse to this little essay is that some vessel be constructed which can by God’s grace transport the genuine seeker toward a greater appreciation of Our Lady’s role in God’s plan of redemption.
A Great And Wondrous Sign
The genuine seeker wishing to comprehend Mary’s place in the plan of salvation can begin at no better place than the Twelfth Chapter of the book of Revelation, which describes a woman, an unnamed woman, but one whose place in the Divine Economy is described in the magnificent manner of the disciple whom Jesus loved writing under the inspiration of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.
The woman, we are told, is a semeion mega, a “great wonder” according to the King James translators, a “great sign” according to the NASB, or a “great and wondrous sign” according to the New International Version. She is signal, a miraculous signal, pointing beyond herself to something or someone else.
The Holy Scriptures are full of references to signs, from the opening chapter of the first book of the Bible, where it is reported that God created the lights in the heavens for signs, to the final book, where we are told again of signs. God gave Moses signs of his Divine commission (Ex. 4), as he gave signs to the apostles to authenticate their authority at the inception of the new dispensation (Acts 2:43). God gave to Moses and the apostles the capacity to perform miracles, and these miracles were tokens or marks by which their contemporaries could see that God authorized them to speak for him.
The woman, however, is a sign of a different nature and a different magnitude. We are not told that she performed a sign. Unlike Moses and the apostles who performed signs, she, herself, is a sign. Not only is she, in her person, a sign, she is a “great sign,” a “great and wondrous” sign.
If the Mosaic and Apostolic signs are inadequate to be true parallels to the woman who is a sign, we come closer to the mark when we recall the sign of God’s covenant with Noah and through him all flesh. God signified his promise to never again purge the earth of living creatures with a flood by setting his bow “in the cloud” (Gen. 9:13). The cloud, which once had been an instrument by which God had poured out his wrath on the earth, now is marked with the beautiful rainbow, a sign of God’s loving plan to preserve his unworthy creatures.
We are reminded that a woman had once been an instrument, not of God but of the serpent, by which destruction had been brought to all mankind. As the cloud was transformed from an instrument of death to a sign of God’s grace, so is the woman.
Clothed With The Sun
In every culture clothing is used not merely as a protective covering but, more importantly, as a means of expressing the personality, character, dignity and station in life of the wearer. This is especially true in the Scriptures, which mention clothing with an astonishing frequency. Joseph was distinguished from his brothers by his coat of many colors (Gen. 37). The Judaic priests were distinguished by their particular clothing (Lev. 8:7). Royal dignity is signified by the finest clothing (Ps. 45:13). John the Baptist, in contrast, wears the most uncomfortable clothing to symbolize his role as the one who proclaimed repentance for forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:6), and his so doing is in keeping with the age-old biblical tradition of tearing one’s clothes to express mortification.
God’s attributes are described as his clothing (Ps. 93:1; 104:1). Similarly, Christians are admonished to be clothed with humility (1 Pet. 5:5) and to put on Christ (Rom. 13:14). In a parable of the kingdom of God that seems quite odd to our modern mentality, Our Lord tells us that the person who attends the royal wedding without the proper attire will be summarily ejected (Matt. 22:11-13).
We must make another observation here. The woman of Rev. 12 appears near the close of God’s public revelation. She is described, as we will see in more detail later, against the backdrop of the biblical description of another woman, one who is described near the commencement of God’s word.
The Book of Genesis tells of the first woman. She was created innocent, and in her innocence she was naked but not ashamed. She lost her innocence through deliberate disobedience of God’s command. Her disobedience and that of her husband brought death to the world. God clothed her, but he clothed her in such a way as to signify her place as the authoress of death. God clothed her with the skin of dead animals.
The contrast between the two women is striking. One is innocent and therefore naked, then sinful and therefore clothed with death. The other is clothed with the sun. We may conclude that she transcends both sinfulness and innocence.
The sun was widely worshipped by pagans in the ancient world. In fact, Sunday was the day for worshipping the sun. Hence, first century Christians with a pagan background would have understood that the woman of Rev. 12 had somehow been clothed with attributes of divinity.
Indeed, Jewish Christians, steeped in the Old Testament, would have understood it the same way. One person in all of Scripture is described in a similar manner, God himself. Psalm 104 describes God as clothing himself “with light as a cloak.” In another place the Psalmist says that “the Lord God is a sun and a shield” (Ps. 84:11).
All Christians, when they read Rev. 12, should recall that when Our Lord was transfigured, his face shone like the sun (Matt. 17:2). When God revealed himself to St. Paul, he did so as a light brighter than the sun (Acts 26:13). In the last day, God’s righteous ones, those who have put on Christ and are admitted into the Father’s kingdom, will “shine forth as the sun” (Matt. 13:43).
We may conclude from all this, not that Our Lady is divine, but that she has in a remarkable way been given some divine attributes, that she has been made a partaker in the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). She has already been given the great gift that will be awarded to all the saints in the last day (Matt. 13:43).
The Queen Of Heaven
Our Lady is not only “clothed with the sun,” she has “the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” Clearly, we are in the presence of a queen, a queen who is “in heaven” (Rev. 12:1). We are reminded of Joseph, whose dream that the sun and the moon and the eleven stars bowed to him foreshadowed the authority that was to be his (Gen. 37:9).
The moon “is frequently noticed as presaging events of the greatest importance, such as the Second Coming of Christ, through the temporary or permanent withdrawal of its light. (Isa. 13:10; Joel 2:31; Matt. 24:29; Mark 13:24)” (Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Moody Press, 1966, p. 757). Scripture uses the phrase “under his feet” elsewhere to signify the ruler/ruled relationship, usually as a description of the authority of the Risen and Ascended Christ over his enemy and all things (Ps. 8:6; Ps. 110:1; 1 Cor. 15:27; Eph. 1:22). It may be stretching a bit, but one possible inference is that the woman in Rev. 12 has authority over the Second Coming of Christ. If that seems farfetched, recall that Our Lord’s first advent required her “be it done unto me”; his first miracle was at her initiative; and the coming of the Paraclete was linked to her intercession.
We note also that Scripture assigns to the sun the authority to rule over the day and to the moon the authority to rule over the night (Gen. 1:16). So, the woman “clothed with the sun” and with “the moon under her feet” may be one to whom God has given authority during both the day and the night.
She also has “on her head a crown of twelve stars.” The twelve stars may have reference to the twelve signs of the zodiac, but more likely the reference is to the twelve tribes of Israel and to the twelve apostles. The woman here is not only Queen of Heaven; she is the Queen of the Church in both the old and new dispensations. One woman comes to mind here: the one who was born under the old dispensation and gave birth to the son whose appearance marked the commencement of the new.
The Queen, The King And The Dragon
We come now to the heart of the passage, a great cosmic drama. The Queen is with child, she is in labor, and she cries out in pain. The hour of her travail precipitates a response. Another sign appears in heaven, this time an ominous one. A great red dragon appears. He stands before the woman, intending to devour her child when it is born. The passage does not tell us why. But we know.
We are seeing here the fulfillment of an age-old prophecy, first made when our parents thrust us all under a death sentence by choosing to follow the serpent rather than God. The vision here is from the perspective of eternity.
The serpent of old, who is identical to the dragon of Rev. 12, had deceived Eve. As a consequence, God told the serpent:
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
and you shall bruise him on the heel.
Eve, of course, died without his prophecy being fulfilled in her person. There must needs be a second Eve, another woman who would have enmity with the serpent, and whose seed would bruise him on the head while being bruised on the heel.
The extraordinary part of the prophecy is the reference to “her seed.” In biblical physiology, it is man, not woman, who has “seed.” “Her seed” is a prediction of a child to be born without a father. The prophecy is reiterated by Isaiah: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel (God with us)” (Isa. 7:14). The virgin who bears a son is a sign from the Lord himself, a sign “in heaven.” Her child is “God with us.”
The fulfillment of the prophecy is recorded from the standpoint of time in the Gospels, and from the standpoint of heaven in Rev. 12. When Rev. 12 reports that the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth so that he might devour her child, we understand that this is the fulfillment of the prophecy of enmity between the woman and her seed, on the one hand, and the serpent on the other. The Scripture is explicit that the dragon is identical to the serpent of old, who is called the devil and satan, and who deceives the whole world (Rev. 12:9).
The child whom the dragon sought to devour is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron (Rev. 12:5). Unquestionably, the child is Jesus. We recall that Herod sought to murder Jesus at his birth; Satan sought to tempt him to sin in the wilderness; and the authorities executed Jesus at the age of thirty-three. These events constitute the dragon’s attempts to devour the child.
If Jesus is the child whom the dragon sought to devour in Rev. 12, it follows unavoidably that the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars, the great and wondrous sign, is the virgin mother of Jesus, Mary.
The Defeat Of The Dragon
We have seen that after the serpent had deceived Eve, God told the serpent that he would put enmity between “you and the woman” and between “your seed and her seed.” We have also seen how Rev. 12 describes the fulfillment of that prophecy.
The prophecy does not end with the foretelling of the enmity, nor does Rev. 12 conclude with the description of its fulfillment. “He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” The serpent will not prevail in his enmity against the woman and her seed.
In the Gospels we see that the efforts to destroy Jesus by death and by temptation failed. Herod was unsuccessful in his effort to murder the infant Jesus. Satan could not induce Jesus to sin. Although the authorities executed Jesus, he rose again and ascended into heaven where he sat down at the Father’s right hand, which is the place of authority.
So, we are not surprised to read in Rev. 12 that “her child was caught up to God and his throne.” God protected the child so that the dragon was unable to devour him.
There is more. A war is fought in heaven. Michael and his angels overcome Satan and his angels, who are cast out of heaven and down to the earth.
Having been cast down to the earth, the dragon turns his attention to the woman who gave birth to the male child, and he persecutes her, in fulfillment of the prediction of enmity between “you and the woman.” Again, as with “her seed,” the dragon is unsuccessful.
And the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, in order that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. And the serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, so that he might cause her to be swept away with the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth (Rev. 12:14-16).
The two wings of a great eagle were given to the woman, so that she might fly into the wilderness to her place. The eagles’ wings signify the special help of God. When God freed the Israelites from Egypt and miraculously placed them beyond Egyptian power, he described his deliverance in similar language: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to myself” (Exod. 19:5). As God intervened on behalf of the Israelites to place them beyond the power of the Egyptians, so he intervenes on behalf of the woman to place her beyond Satan’s power.
We have seen before how Rev. 12 parallels the Gospels, and it does so again here. When Gabriel announced to Mary her special role in God’s place of redemption, he greeted her saying, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). When Mary was troubled, Gabriel reassured her, “You have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). The words translated “favored one” and “favor” are derived from the Greek word for grace, which is why the earliest Christian scholars translated these passages “Hail, full of grace,” and “You have found grace with God.”
Either way, the meaning is the same. Those whom God favors are the recipients of his grace. A “favored one” of God will be full of grace. Regardless of the translation, the angel greeted Mary with a unique title, a title given no other person in Scripture. When God established his Covenant with Abram, he gave him a new name, Abraham; when he established his covenant with Jacob, he gave him a new name, Israel; and when Jesus called Simon to be the head of the apostles, he gave him a new name, Peter or Rock. Just so, at the inception of the New Covenant, God gave Mary a unique title, “You who are highly favored” in the NIV rendition, or “full of grace.”
Rev. 12 reveals to us the meaning of this title. Not only is Mary the Mother of God, she is placed by God’s special protection beyond the power of Satan. As Jesus was beyond Satan’s power, so is his Mother.
The two wings of the great eagle take her “into the wilderness to her place.” “Her place” is the place in the wilderness “prepared by God” (Rev. 12:6). The woman is in heaven; she is taken into the wilderness; and she goes to a place prepared for her by God. The wilderness is the place to which God took the Israelites when he brought them out of Egypt but before he admitted them to the promised land. Though they were in the wilderness and not the promised land, still God had brought them to Himself (Exod. 19:4).
The wilderness is also the place where Jesus went to be tempted by Satan. As the angels ministered to Jesus following the temptations, so the woman is nourished in the wilderness.
Not only is she in the wilderness, the woman is in a place prepared for her by God. We are reminded that on the eve of his death, Jesus promised his disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).
It is a puzzling array of places. The woman is in heaven. She is also in the wilderness, the place of temptation; yet, she is in a place prepared for her by God. She is beyond Satan’s power. Her occupancy of this unique place lasts for one thousand two hundred and sixty days (Rev. 12:6) or “a time and times and half a time” (Rev. 12:14). During this period of time she is nourished and kept from the face of the serpent. “A time and times and half a time” signifies the duration of Satan’s war against God’s people (Dan. 7:25; Dan. 12:7; Rev. 13:5). Hence, the woman is protected from the power of Satan throughout the duration of his war on earth.
Satan’s power brings two things: sin and death. That Jesus was beyond Satan’s power is demonstrated by his sinlessness and his victory over death. If the woman is protected from Satan for “a time and times and half a time,” then she, too, is free from sin and is victorious over death. She is, indeed, highly favored or full of grace.
The woman’s place, however, is more anomalous than that of her child, who “was caught up to God and to his throne.” Though she is in heaven and in a place prepared by Gad, still she is in the wilderness, the place of temptation. She is in the place of temptation, yet beyond temptation.
Not only does God favor her with his special protection, so does the earth. The serpent attempted to destroy the woman with a flood, but the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river that poured from the dragon’s mouth (Rev. 12:15,16). The earth is on the woman’s side.
This represents a reversal of the curse that resulted from the sin of Adam and Eve. God had said to Adam:
Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you,
And you shall eat of the plants of the field;
By the sweat of your face
You shall eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return
Eve had been in a garden prepared by God. A fallen angel spoke to her, she believed that fallen angel, and she ate forbidden fruit, along with her husband. As a result the ground was cursed and would no longer cooperate in providing food. The angel Gabriel spoke to Mary. Mary believed Gabriel’s message and gave birth to the Savior. As a result she goes to a place prepared for her by God in the wilderness where she is nourished by God. The earth cooperates with her, protects her. “And the dragon was enraged with the woman” (Rev. 12:17).
Because he was enraged with the woman, the dragon went off “to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 12:17). “Her offspring” is, in the Greek, ton spermatos autas, “her sperm” or “her seed.” “The rest of her seed” refers to those in addition to the male child, Jesus, and they are identified as those “who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” The author takes pains to remind us again that the woman of Rev. 12 is the second Eve, the one in whom the prophecies of Gen. 3 are fulfilled.
The author is also providing a gloss on the famous comment of Jesus regarding his mother and brothers and sisters in Matt. 12:46-50. While speaking to the multitudes, Jesus was told that his mother and brothers were outside.
But he answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward his disciples, He said, “Behold, my mother and My brothers! For whoever shall do the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
The family of Jesus consists of those who do the will of Jesus’s Father. It follows logically that the mother of Jesus is also the mother of his brothers and sisters. Our author does not leave it to us to draw that conclusion. He tells us explicitly, those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus have the mother of Jesus as their mother.
It is worth noting here that the Book of Revelation was written by St. John the Apostle, the one whom Jesus loved, the last person to whom Jesus spoke before he died on the cross. Jesus saw his mother “and the disciple whom he loved.” He said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” To John he said, “Behold, your mother!” (John 19:26-27). From that hour John took her into his home.
The directives of Jesus to his disciples are commonly accepted as being directions to Christians in all ages. When, for example, he said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again,” and to his disciples, “Go into all the world and make disciples . . . ,” we understand that his statements have universal application and are not limited to the particular individuals before Jesus at the time and place the remarks were made. So, too, as John makes clear in Rev. 12:17, when Jesus said to John, “Behold, your mother,” he was speaking to all Christians in all ages. All who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus should imitate John and take her into their homes.
Eve was the mother of all the living (Gen. 3:20). Mary, the second Eve, is the mother of all who have eternal life.
The premise of this little collection of reflections is a very simple one. Since the male child in Rev. 12 is Jesus, the mother of the male child in Rev. 12 is the mother of Jesus, Mary. The great Catholic devotion to Mary is rooted in a straightforward acceptance of this beautiful passage of Scripture at face value.
While this observation may be surprising to some, it should not be. Most of the Catholic distinctives that are criticized by our Evangelical brothers are rooted in taking Scripture at face value. “Unless one is born of the water and the Spirit, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:5). “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves” (John 6:53). “This is my body which is given for you” (Luke 22:19). “All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death” (Rom. 6:3). “Baptism now saves you” (1 Pet. 3:21). “You are Peter (the rock) and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not overpower it” (Matt. 16:18). “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained” (John 20:23).
As we believe that these passages mean just what they say, so also we believe that the Mother of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke is also the Mother of Jesus in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Revelation.
She is protected from the power of Satan for the entire duration of his war against humanity, and so she is free from sin and the corruption of death. We recognize her authority, because she is clothed with the sun, the moon is under her feet, and she wears on her head a crown of twelve stars. She is the Queen of Heaven. She is the mother of those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. Though she is beyond the power of Satan, still she is with us in the wilderness, the place of temptation, the place between the slavery of Egypt and the promised land. So, like a good mother, she can come to our aid. Though she is Queen of Heaven, she is still with us, and she can speak to us. She is a sign, a great and wondrous sign, pointing to her Son, telling us to do whatever he says.
As God has honored her and continues to honor her, so do we. We, like all generations, call her blessed. Hail, Mary!
Dr. James Leon Holmes is a lawyer in Little Rock, Arkansas. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Duke University and formerly was a tutor at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif. He, his wife and his five children were received into the Church in 1989. This is his first article in HPR.