WITHIN the Christmas narrative lies the pattern of the end times. 2000 years after its first telling, the Church is able to peer into the Sacred Scripture with a deeper clarity and understanding as the Holy Spirit unveils Daniel’s book—a book that was to be sealed “until the end time” when the world would be in a state of rebellion—apostasy. cf. Is the Veil Lifting?
As for you, Daniel, keep secret the message and seal the book until the end time; many shall fall away and evil shall increase. (Daniel 12:4)
It is not that there is something “new” being revealed, per se. Rather, our understanding of the unfolding “details” is becoming more clear:
Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries. —Catechism of the Catholic Church 66
By paralleling the Christmas narrative to our times, we may be given a greater understanding of what is here and coming…
THE FIRST PARALLEL
This woman represents Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer, but she represents at the same time the whole Church, the People of God of all times, the Church that at all times, with great pain, again gives birth to Christ. —POPE BENEDICT XVI in reference to Rev 12:1; Castel Gandolfo, Italy, AUG. 23, 2006; Zenit
St. John also speaks of a contemporaneous sign…
…a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems. (Rev 12:3)
The dragon stood before the woman to devour her child when she gave birth. Herod, of course, plotted to find the foretold King and kill him, for fear he would usurp his throne. He used deception, lying to the Wise Men about his intentions. But God protected the woman and her child by warning the Wise Men in a dream not to return to Herod.
…the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” (Matt 2:13)
The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God, that there she might be taken care of for twelve hundred and sixty days. (Rev 12:6)
Herod pursues Mary and her child:
When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under… (Matt 2:16)
The dragon, likewise, pursues anyone who bears the mark of Christ:
Then the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus. (Rev 12:17)
THE SECOND PARALLEL
The Church conceived Christ, you could say, at Pentecost when, like Mary, she was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. For 2000 years, the Church has labored in every generation to give birth to Jesus in the hearts of the nations. However, I want to focus this analogy to that specific period at the end of the age when the Church would endure those “labor pains” indicative of a new birthing in her life.
In 1967, the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Church once again when a little group of university students experienced “Pentecost” while praying before the Blessed Sacrament. “The power of the most High” came upon them, cf. Luke 1:34 and thus was birthed a renewal of the Church, a “charismatic” movement that spread throughout the world. It was embraced by the Popes, encouraged through her official teaching, and welcomed as a gift from God:
Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men, and to the needs of the world... Charisms are to be accepted with gratitude by the person who receives them and by all members of the Church as well. They are a wonderfully rich grace for the apostolic vitality and for the holiness of the entire Body of Christ… —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 799-800
As Mary prophesied in her Magnificat the toppling of “the mighty” and the exaltation of “the lowly”—something she learned that would come through the desert, the Cross, through a sword piercing her own heart—so too, this outpouring of the Spirit was accompanied by a prophetic word in the presence of Pope Paul VI:
Because I love you, I want to show you what I am doing in the world today. I want to prepare you for what is to come. Days of darkness are coming on the world, days of tribulation… Buildings that are now standing will not be standing. Supports that are there for my people now will not be there. I want you to be prepared, my people, to know only me and to cleave to me and to have me in a way deeper than ever before. I will lead you into the desert… I will strip you of everything that you are depending on now, so you depend just on me. A time of darkness is coming on the world, but a time of glory is coming for my Church, a time of glory is coming for my people. I will pour out on you all the gifts of my Spirit. I will prepare you for spiritual combat; I will prepare you for a time of evangelism that the world has never seen…. And when you have nothing but me, you will have everything: land, fields, homes, and brothers and sisters and love and joy and peace more than ever before. Be ready, my people, I want to prepare you… —Ralph Martin, May, 1975, St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City
This outpouring of the Spirit, while given for the Church and the entire world, was only embraced by a remnant within the Body of Christ.
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:8-10)
So too, the “glory of the Lord” poured upon the Church has come in the night watch, as she enters the vigil of the Day of the Lord at the end of this age. cf. Two More Days The darkness is a spiritual one, a world wrapped in the night of apostasy.
God is disappearing from the human horizon, and, with the dimming of the light which comes from God, humanity is losing its bearings, with increasingly evident destructive effects. —Letter of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to All the Bishops of the World, March 10, 2009; Catholic Online
It has come at a time when God gave to His bride a Pope who cried out, “Do not be afraid!” —JOHN PAUL II, Homily, Saint Peter’s Square, October 22, 1978, No. 5 For, like Mary, the Church knows that the toppling of the mighty will come through the wisdom and power of the Cross—ultimately through the Church’s own Passion.
A Great Deception
Like Herod, who weaved a web of lies in order to catch within it the body of Jesus, so too Satan has been weaving, since the Enlightenment period four centuries ago, a web of deception to ensnare the Body of Christ through sophistries. cf. Wisdom and the Convergence of Chaos Jesus said of this fallen angel:
He was a murderer from the beginning… he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)
The devil lies in order to eventually murder the soul and even the body (ie. Communism, Nazism, Abortion, etc.). I have written plenty on this historical battle between the Woman and the dragon, cf. The Woman and the Dragon how Satan has been sowing philosophical lies so as to move men’s minds so far away from the will of God, that they would conceive and even embrace a “culture of death.” Yes, don’t forget about that—the battle between Mary (the Church’s) offspring and Satan’s, that was prophesied from the very beginning in Genesis 3:15.
The Illumination of Conscience I have been writing about is a grace to withdraw men from the empire of Satan by revealing to them the mercy and love of the Sacred Heart. The saints and mystics describe this event as something that is both interior and accompanied by an exterior sign in the sky. Could this not be compared to the illumination of the Star of Bethlehem that leads men to the King of kings?
…behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star… (Matt 2:9-10)
But not everyone was overjoyed at seeing the star, even though it heralded the coming of the Savior. The illumination of the star hardened Herod’s heart… and the armies that carried out his murderous plans.
The Providence of God
In that prophecy at Rome, God speaks of stripping His Church, of leading her into the desert until she has nothing but Him. As the labor pains increased in Mary until she gave birth, so too did the providence of God at that time. The provision of the stable, the gifts of the Wise Men, the mystical dreams that guided and led Mary and Joseph to their places of refuge… So too will it be for the Church as she gives birth to the “full number of gentiles”: cf. Rom 11:25; cf. This Generation? God will give her a place of refuge and protection from the dragon:
…the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, so that she could fly to her place in the desert, where, far from the serpent, she was taken care of for a year, two years, and a half-year. (Rev 12:14)
The Rise of the Beast
We see today the incredible signs of the “new springtime” present in the Church. The new orders springing up here and there with young people on fire for God; bold pro-life initiatives led by young people; faithful and orthodox young men entering the seminaries; and many grassroots initiatives producing the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Satan cannot defeat the Church for Christ Himself promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. cf. Matt 16:18
The serpent, however, spewed a torrent of water out of his mouth after the woman to sweep her away with the current. But the earth helped the woman and opened its mouth and swallowed the flood that the dragon spewed out of its mouth. Then the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus. (Rev 12:15-16)
When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre… (Matt 2:16)
[The beast or Antichrist] was also allowed to wage war against the holy ones and conquer them. (Rev 13:7)
Satan takes his last stand for “the final confrontation” against the Woman’s offspring.
We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine Providence; it is a trial which the whole Church… —Cardinal Karol Wojtyla (JOHN PAUL II ), at the Eucharistic Congress, Philadelphia, PA; August 13, 1976
Those who have refused the grace of the Illumination, the light of the “star” that would have led them to the Savior, will inevitably become part of the ranks of the “anti-Church,” the army of the beast. They will, knowingly or not, help to carry out the final consequences of a society that has embraced a “culture of death.” They will persecute the Church, as Christ prophesied, shedding the blood of new martyrs for the faith.
They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God… They worshiped the dragon because it gave its authority to the beast; they also worshiped the beast* and said, “Who can compare with the beast or who can fight against it? (John 16:2; Rev 13:4)
The Era of Peace
After Herod dies, we read:
Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there. And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee. (Matt 2:20-22)
So too, after the death of Antichrist, St. John records that it is not the end of the world, but the beginning of a final era when the Church will reign with Christ to the ends of the earth. But just as Joseph and Mary did not return to the promised “land of Israel” as they had hoped, so too, the temporal reign of the kingdom of God on earth is not the final destination of Heaven, but a foretaste of that everlasting peace and joy. It will be a period when the Holy Will of God will reign on earth “as it is in Heaven” for a “thousand years”; a time when the Church will grow exponentially in holiness to prepare her to receive Jesus “without spot or blemish” cf. Eph 5:27 when He comes again in glory.
The beast was caught and with it the false prophet who had performed in its sight the signs by which he led astray those who had accepted the mark of the beast and those who had worshiped its image. The two were thrown alive into the fiery pool burning with sulfur… Then I saw thrones; those who sat on them were entrusted with judgment. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image nor had accepted its mark on their foreheads or hands. They came to life and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (Rev 19:; Rev 20:4)
I and every other orthodox Christian feel certain that there will be a resurrection of the flesh followed by a thousand years in a rebuilt, embellished, and enlarged city of Jerusalem, as was announced by the Prophets Ezekiel, Isaias and others… A man among us named John, one of Christ’s Apostles, received and foretold that the followers of Christ would dwell in Jerusalem for a thousand years, and that afterwards the universal and, in short, everlasting resurrection and judgment would take place. —St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Ch. 81, The Fathers of the Church, Christian Heritage
RENEW YOUR HOPE!
Let the Christmas narrative—the conception, birth, and early days of the family of Nazareth— be a great comfort to your soul. God will keep safe in these times those who remain faithful to Him. cf. Rev 3:10 By safe, I mean the most important safety of all: the protection of one’s soul. Jesus does not promise us a bed of roses. In fact, He promises the Cross. But the Cross is the great garden from which springs forth the Resurrection after “the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies.” cf. John 12:24
We are tempted to ask the questions,
“Is “Herod” (the Antichrist) alive today?”
“How close are we to some of these events?”
“Will I live to see the Era of Peace?”
But the most important question of all is whether or not I, like the shepherds or the Wise Men, have followed the divine light of grace to worship Jesus, here and now, present in my heart, present in the Holy Eucharist? For the Kingdom of Heaven is not far away, somewhere off in the distance. It is “near,” Jesus said. cf. Mark 1:14 Or has the deception of Herod caught me in its web, lulling my mind and heart to sleep, numb to the culture of death and materialism that is draining the soul of the world? Whatever the answer, whatever the state of my soul—whether it is more prepared, like the Wise Men, more lowly like the shepherds, or unprepared, like the inn keeper—let us hasten immediately so that we may be found at the foot of Him who is Love and Mercy itself.
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|↑1||cf. Is the Veil Lifting?|
|↑2||cf. Living the Book of Revelation|
|↑3||cf. Luke 1:34|
|↑4||cf. Two More Days|
|↑5||—JOHN PAUL II, Homily, Saint Peter’s Square, October 22, 1978, No. 5|
|↑6||cf. Wisdom and the Convergence of Chaos|
|↑7||cf. The Woman and the Dragon|
|↑8||cf. Rom 11:25; cf. This Generation?|
|↑9||cf. Matt 16:18|
|↑10||cf. Eph 5:27|
|↑11||cf. Rev 3:10|
|↑12||cf. John 12:24|
|↑13||cf. Mark 1:14|