Rome, Italy, Dec 8, 2011 / 14:28 pm
Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the biblical description of a “woman clothed with the sun” in his remarks at Rome's Spanish Steps on the 2011 Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
“What is the meaning of this image? It represents the Church and Our Lady at the same time,” the Pope told the crowd assembled before the nearby statue commemorating the 1854 definition of Mary's Immaculate Conception. “Before all, the 'woman' of the apocalypse is Mary herself.”
The 12th chapter of the Biblical Apocalypse – also known as the Book of Revelation – describes the glorification and persecution of “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”
Though not named, this woman is described as the mother of the Messiah. In poetic language akin to the Bible's other prophetic books, Saint John says she faced the threat of “a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns,” and “fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God.”
Pope Benedict, offering white roses in his traditional yearly act of Marian veneration, gave listeners his insight into the connection between the Virgin Mary and the Church – portrayed in the Apocalypse through the single image of the sun-clad woman.
“She appears 'clothed in sunlight,' that is, clothed in God,” observed the Pope. “The Virgin Mary is in fact completely surrounded by the light of God and lives in God … The 'Immaculate One' reflects with all of her person the light of the 'sun' which is God.”
“Besides representing Our Lady, this sign personifies the Church, the Christian community of all times,” he continued.
The Church, he explained, is “pregnant, in the sense that she carries Christ” and “must give birth to him to the world.”