Father Richard Berube, S.S.E. reflected on A Woman Clothed with the Sun and a Crown of Twelve Stars on Aug. 14 at Saint Anne’s Shrine in Isle La Motte. This was part of a summertime series that takes place in the Boucher Building each Wednesday.
He spoke on the topic a day before The Assumption of Mary Feast Day. He said in popular devotion the Assumption is often thought to be the coronation of the Blessed Virgin. Revelation 12:1 is the entrance antiphon for the Mass and Revelation chapter 12 the first reading of the Mass on the Solemnity. “It is a bedazzling kaleidoscope of images,” Father Berube said quoting author Stephen Harris.
“The Book of Revelation describes itself as a prophetic message and a record of visions,” he said.
It begins, “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.” (Rev. 12:1)
What’s revealed in these visions written around the year 100 by John of Patmos is a cosmic battle on a universal stage which scholars have debated over for 15 centuries. The multi-layered symbol at the center of Revelation 12 could be Mary, Father Berube said. “You can’t rule it out, or establish either, that John of Patmos himself was talking about Mary the Mother of Jesus.”
The Book of Revelation is a sweep of past, present and future. “It is an unveiling, a revelation, an opening of a curtain on a very visual end-time drama—God’s future for us,” Father Berube said. “This future is an object of hope, but we cannot draw a literal calendar of events from this writing. They do not point to specific events. The images blend and morph with one another.”
In reading more from Revelation 12 to the group, Father Berube said Jesus the Messiah is identified clearly. So is the dragon as Satan, and Saint Michael as God's champion. But the woman at the center of this drama is unnamed and is successively identified, and morphs into several identities. “She is Eve, the mother of all of the living and the first one to be pursued by the ancient serpent,” Father Berube said.
The dragon is not finished yet, the images continue. She is the bearer of Israel’s promise of a messiah. "She is a corporate image here—a people. She is Israel. As Mother Israel, she fled into the desert to be cared for. She is Israel of the exodus,” he said. "She becomes the mother of the Messiah, and then the mother of those who bear witness to Jesus—the new people of God. She is Mother Church, another corporate image. Virtually all commentators have agreed that these three identities in the text, as intended by the author, are Eve, Mother Israel, and Mother Church in sequence.”
Over the centuries, the Church has come to realize that Mary herself can be seen in these visions also. “It’s like seeing something in a painting that you hadn’t noticed before, but once you notice it, you can’t miss it,” Father said. “The Book of Revelation is just like this. The images are moldable and have the potential of revealing things later that you didn’t see at first.”
Through this reading of Revelation 12, we see that Mary, the Queen of Heaven, holds an elevated status that is second only to her son, Jesus. We are led to envision how she embodies God’s people through the Old and New Testaments through the visions of John of Patmos, Father Berube said. “The Book of Revelation is about Mary’s exemplary position in the Church. It is about the hope of the resurrection itself. Mary’s Assumption confirms the promise of our own.”
"Revelation brings together our common humanity from Mother Eve, Mother Israel, Mother Church, and Mother Mary. It is all there. It is all one story, one vision, and we are in it,” Father concluded.
Father Berube urged the crowd to read The Book of Revelation all the way through and then to go back and read it a second time with help from the notes in the New American Bible.
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