My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
ΤΗΕ APOCALYPSE IN THE TEACHINGS OF ANCIENT CHRISTIANITY
By Archbishop Averky Taushev
The Third Vision: The Battle of the Kingdom of God with the Power Hostile to it of Antichrist: The Church of Christ Under the Image of the Woman Travailing in Birth
"And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars; and she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered." (12:1-2)
Certain commentators have seen in this mystical woman the Most Holy Theotokos, but such outstanding commentators as Saint Hippolytus, Saint Methodius, and Saint Andrew of Caesarea find that this is "the Church clothed in the Logos/Word of the Father, shining more brightly than the sun." This brilliance of the sun signifies likewise that she possesses the True knowledge of God and His Laws and contains His revelations. The moon under her feet is a sign of the fact that she is above everything as the "faith of those cleansed of corruption by the bath, that is, baptism, since upon the moon depends the nature of moisture."
On her head is a crown of twelve stars that, being originally gathered together from the Twelve Tribes of Israel, she subsequently was guided by the Twelve Apostles who comprise her light-bearing glory.
From the fact that she is in pain during childbirth, it is evident that it is incorrect to see in this woman the Most Holy Theotokos, for the giving birth from Her of the Son of God was without pain. These torments of birth giving signify the difficulties which had to be overcome by the Church of Christ when it was being established in the world (martyrdom, the spreading of heresies). At the same time it signifies, in the explanation of Saint Andrew, that "the Church is pained for each one of those who is reborn by water and the Spirit until, as the divine Apostle has said, "Christ shall be formed in them" (Gal. 4:19). Saint Methodius says, 'The Church is pained giving rebirth from natural to spiritual men and transforming them in appearance and image in the likeness of Christ" (St. Andrew, ch. 33).
12:3 "And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads."
In this image of the dragon one cannot but see the ancient serpent called the devil or Satan, of whom it will be spoken below (verse 9). The red color signifies his blood-thirsty cruelty; the seven heads signify his extreme slyness and cunning, as opposed to the seven spirits of God, the gifts of the Holy Spirit; the ten horns are his evil power and might which are directed against the Commandments of the Law of God. The crowns on his head signify the royal authority of the devil in his dark kingdom. As applied to the history of the Church, some see in these seven crowns seven kings who rise up against the Church, and in the ten horns, ten persecutions against the Church.
12:4 "And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth; and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born."
By these stars which the devil draws after himself in his fall, commentators understand the fallen angels or demons. By them are also understood representatives of the churches and teachers who are corrupted by satanic power. As for the dragon standing before the woman, Saint Andrew writes: "The devil always arms himself against the Church and increasingly strives to make those reborn by her his food" (St. Andrew, ch. 33).
12:5a "And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron."
This is an image of Jesus Christ, as Saint Andrew says: "In the person of those who are baptized, the Church ceaselessly gives birth to Christ; just as, according to the Apostle, we come "unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13)" (St. Andrew, ch. 33). Saint Hyppolytus says likewise, "The Church will not cease to give birth from its heat to the Logos/Word which is persecuted in the world by unbelievers." The Church always gives birth to Christ through men, and from the very beginning Satan has striven to devour Christ as he did in the person of Herod.
12:5b "And her child was caught up unto God, and to His throne."
Thus the Lord Jesus Christ was caught up to heaven on the day of His Glorious Ascension and sat upon the Throne of His Father at the right hand; so also all the Saints in whom Christ is depicted are caught up unto God so as not to be conquered by temptations which surpass their powers. So also are all Christians of the last times to be caught up to "meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thess. 4:17).
12:6 "And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
By this flight of the woman into the wilderness, many see the flight of Christians from Jerusalem which had been besieged by the Romans at the time of the great Jewish War, 66-70 A.D. Then people fled into Pella and the desert beyond the Jordan. This indeed lasted for three and a half years. By this wilderness one may see also that wilderness where the first Christians saved themselves from the persecutors, and also that wilderness in which the holy ascetics saved themselves from the nets of the devil. It is not improbable also that the literal wilderness, as it did before for the martyrs, will save those who flee from the attacks of the apostate and false Christ into mountains, caves, and holes of the earth. The three and one-half years, signified by the twelve hundred sixty days, is the time for the course of which the apostasy will reign.
12:7-9 "And there was war in heaven: Michael and his Angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven."
In the commentary of Saint Andrew of Ceasearea, these words "may refer to the first casting out of the devil for his pride and envy from the Angelic order; likewise to his defeat by the Cross of the Master when the Lord said, "Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out" (St. John 12:3); see Ezekiel 28:16)" (Saint Andrew, ch. 34).
Under the image of this battle likewise, commentators see the victory of Christianity over paganism, insofar as the devil and his demons have aroused and armed with all their power the pagans to battle against the Church of Christ.
12:10-12 "And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the Kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time."
In this victory over the devil, an active part was taken by Christians themselves who "overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." Such were the holy martyrs. Being conquered in two battles, one with the Archangel Michael and his heavenly host in the heavens, and the other with the martyrs of Christ on earth--Satan has preserved yet a certain appearance of authority on earth, crawling about it like a serpent, living out his last days on earth devising ways in which to wage a final and decisive battle with God and believing Christians with the help of Antichrist and his helper, the false prophet.
12:13-14 "And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent."
The devil does not cease to persecute the Church, but the Church, having two wings of an eagle, the Old and New Testaments, hides from the devil in the wilderness; by which one may understand both the spiritual and the literal wilderness in which the True Christian ascetics have hid themselves and are hiding themselves. Saint Andrew of Caesarea says: "And so it is always, but especially at the coming of the Antichrist who will reign for three and one-half years. At that time it may be there will be escape from him those who have hidden in the literal wilderness--the mountains, holes, and caves" (St. Andrew, ch. 35).
12:15-16 "And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman; and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth."
By this "water" Saint Andrew understands "a multitude either of evil demons or of various temptations." By the earth which swallows up this water he understands "the humility of wisdom of the Saints who, saying from all their heart, "I am but earth and ashes" (Gen. 18:27), by this very confession rip apart all the nets of the devil. For, as was revealed by the Angel to the divine Antony, nothing so crushes and cuts off the power of the devil as humility" (St. Andrew, ch. 35). Certain people understand by this, frightful persecutions against the Church from the pagan emperors and the streams of Christian blood which flowed at that time. Like a river which overflows upon the earth and is swallowed up by it, all the malicious powers of Satan were destroyed and vanished without a trace when Christianity triumphed over paganism under Emperor and Saint Constantine the Great.
12:17 "And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the Commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."
This refers to that unceasing and age-old battle which the devil has waged against all true sons of the Church from the time of the foundation of Christianity upon the earth, and which he will wage with an ever increasing degree to the end of the world until his efforts will be worn out and will end in the person of Antichrist.
(To be continued)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"-St. John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God