CHURCH FATHERS ON THE WOMEN OF REV. 12

Courtery of William Albrecht.

St. Epiphanius of Salamis (300s)

Panarion:

“But elsewhere, in the Apocalypse of John, we read that the dragon hurled himself at the woman who had given birth to a male child; but the wings of an eagle were given to the woman, and she flew into the desert, where the dragon could not reach her” (Rev. 12:13-14). This could have happened in Mary’s case.”

In 430 A.D., Quodvultdeus De Symbolo,

“None of you is ignorant of the fact that the dragon was the devil. The woman signified the Virgin Mary.”

 “The Woman signifies Mary, who, being spotless, brought forth our spotless Head. Who herself also showed forth in herself a figure of holy Church, so that as she in bringing forth a Son remained a Virgin, so the Church also should during the whole time be bringing forth His members, and yet not lose her virgin state.”

Andrew of Caesarea Commentary on Revelation (500s)

12:1. And a great sign was seen in heaven, a woman who had been wrapped in the sun, and [the] moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

Some, on the one hand, had understood this woman entirely to be the Theotokos before her divine birth-giving was made known to her, <before she> experienced the things to happen. But the great Methodios took <her> to be the holy Church,

Oecumenius commentary on Revelation (500s)

 “The incarnation of the Lord, by which the world was subjected and made his own, became the occasion for the raising [of the Antichrist] and the endeavors of Satan. For this is why the Antichrist will be raised up: so that he may again cause the world to revolt against Christ, and persuade it to turn around and desert to Satan. Since again the Lord’s physical conception and birth marked the beginning of his incarnation, the vision has brought into some order and sequence the events which it is going to explain, by starting its explanation from the physical conception of Christ, and by depicting for us the Mother of God. For why does he say, And a portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet? He is speaking of the mother of our Savior, as I have said. Naturally the vision describes her as being in heaven and not on earth, as pure in soul and body, as equal to an angel, as a citizen of heaven, as one who came to effect the incarnation of God who dwells in heaven (“for,” he says, “heaven is my throne” [Isa 66:1]), and as one who has nothing in common with the world and the evils in it, but wholly sublime, wholly worthy of heaven, even through she sprang from our mortal nature and being. For the Virgin is of the same substance as we are. The unholy doctrine of Eutyches, that the Virgin is of a miraculously different substance from us, together with his other docetic doctrines, must be banished from the divine courts.

What is the meaning of the saying that she is clothed with the sun, and has the moon under her feet? … [I]n order to show in the vision that even when the Lord was conceived, he was the protector of his own mother and of all creation, the vision said that he clothed the woman. In the same way the divine angel said to the holy Virgin, “The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). Overshadowing, protecting, and clothing all have the same meaning.

He says, And on her head, a crown of twelve stars. For the Virgin is crowned with the twelve apostles who proclaim the Christ while she is proclaimed together with him. He says, She was with child, and she cried out in her birth-pangs, in anguish for delivery. Yet Isaiah says about her, “before the woman in labor gives birth, and before the toil of labor begins, she fled and brought forth a male child” (Isa 66:7). Gregory [of Nyssa], also, in the thirteenth chapter of his Interpretation of the Song of Songs talks of the Lord “whose conception is without intercourse, and whose birth is undefiled.” So the birth was free from pain. Therefore, if, according to such a great prophet and the teacher of the church, the Virgin has escaped the pain of childbirth, how does she here cry out in her birth-pangs, in anguish for delivery? Does this not contradict what was said? Certainly not. For nothing could be contradictory in the mouth of the one and the same Spirit, who spoke through both. But in the present passage you should understand the crying out and being in anguish in this way: until the divine angel told Joseph about her, that the conception was from the Holy Spirit, the Virgin was naturally despondent, blushing before her betrothed, and thinking that he might somehow suspect that she was in labor from a furtive marriage. Her despondency and grief he called, according to the principles of metaphor, crying and anguish; and this is not surprising. For even when blessed Moses spiritually met God and was losing heart–for he saw Israel in the desert being encircled by the sea and by enemies–God said to him, “Why do you cry to me?” (Ex 14:15) So also now the vision calls the sorrowful disposition of the Virgin’s mind and heart “crying out.” But you, who took away the despondency of the undefiled handmaid and your human mother, my lady mistress, the holy Mother of God, by your ineffable birth, do away with my sins, too, for to you is due glory for ever. Amen.”[1]

Cassiodorus; Commentary on Revelation (500s)

“It is fitting to remember the mother and Christ the Lord”

6th or 7th Century Syriac Document

“That great woman represents the Virgin Mary who, intact, begot our Head intact, becoming model for Holy Church.”

Ambrosius Autpertus (700s) Commentary on the Apocalypse

Whether we say that it was the Mother and Virgin Mary who gave birth to Christ, or bears Christ, or say the same about the Mother and Virgin Church, in neither case do we stray from the truth of the matter. The former gave birth to the Head; the latter gave birth to the members of the Head..”

Alcuin (735-804) Commentary on Revelation 12

“The woman clothed with the sun is the Virgin Mary, overshadowed by the power of the Most High; and this is to be understood more generally as also applying also to the Church, which is not called a woman because it would have the quality of effeminacy, softness, but rather, because she (the Church) gives birth, day after day, to new multitudes, from whom the body of Christ is fashioned.


[1] Oecumenius, Commentary on the Apocalypse, trans. John H. Suggit (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2006), pp. 107-109.)

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