The Woman in the Twelfth Chapter of the Apocalypse (Revelation) of Saint John

Icon of the Mother of God of Chirsk-Pskov

Icon of the Mother of God of Chirsk-Pskov

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,



A most difficult passage in a difficult book, the Apocalypse of Saint John (Revelation): "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" (Revelation 12:1-2). The word "woman" was given a collective meaning by most ancient writers as describing the people of God by a female figure. There are many though who identify the "woman" as being the Virgin Mary, who shows herself forth as an image of the Holy Church. As she remained Virgin bringing forth a Son, so the Church at all times would bring forth members (sons and daughters) without losing her virginity (i.e., pure Orthodoxy). The pains the Church suffers refers to her spiritual motherhood, for neither the Church of the Old Testament or the New Testament "cried out in pangs of birth…and brought forth a male child"--Christ. Israel, as a community, did not give birth by natural generation to the Messiah--but it did issue the Virgin-Mother. A woman was at the heart of the mystery and, at the essential moment, the transition of Israel to a new and final destiny would be conveyed by the figure of a woman. This woman was the Virgin Mary who, without pain, gave birth to Christ.

The outstanding commentator and noted father, Hippolytos (c. 170-c.236), clearly states, that the Evangelist John meant "the Church, endued with the Father's Logos/Word, Whose brightness is above the sun. And by "the moon under her feet' he referred to her being adorned, like the moon, with heavenly glory. And the words, 'upon her head a crown of twelve stars,' refer to the twelve Apostles by whom the Church was founded. And that 'she, being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered,' means that the Church will not cease to bear from her heart the Logos/Word that is persecuted by the unbelieving world. 'And she brought forth,' he says, 'a man child' (Revelation 12:5), 'a man child of God, who is declared to be God and man, who become the instructor of all the nations."

Saint Methodius, Bishop of Tyre (+ 311 A.D.) also sees the "woman" in a collective sense, the Church. He writes about the significance of the moon, saying, "and her standing on the moon...refers by way of allegory to the faith of them that have been purified from corruption by baptism...for all moist substances depend on the moon...She labors and brings forth natural men as spiritual, and under this aspect is she indeed their Mother. For just as the woman receives the unformed seed of her husband and after a period of time brings forth a perfect human being, so too the Church, one might say, constantly conceiving those who take refuge in the Logos/Word, and shaping them according to the likeness and form of Christ, after a certain time makes them citizens of that blessed age. Hence it is necessary that she stand upon the laver, as the Mother of those who are washed. The function that she exercises over the laver is called the moon because those who are thus reborn and renewed shine with a new light...Hence, they are designated by the expression "the newly enlightened." She continues to reveal to them the spiritual full moon in her periodic presentation of His Passion, until the full glow and light of the Great Day shall appear."

He then continues speaking of the "man" child, saying, "Remember that the mystery of the Incarnation of the Logos/Word was fulfilled long before the Apocalypse, whereas St. John's prophetic message has to do with the present and the future. Christ was not the "child who was caught up unto God, and to His throne" (Revelation 12:5) for fear lest he be injured by the serpent; rather, He descended from the throne of His Father and was begotten precisely that He might stay and check the dragon's assault on the flesh."

Saint Methodius brings forward the Prophet Isaiah, saying, "Before she that travailed brought forth, before the travailing came on, she escaped it and brought forth a male. Who has heard such a thing? And who has seen after this manner?" (Isaiah 66:7-8). Yet, it is obvious that such a prophecy could only be applied to the Virgin Mary who experienced no pain in birth giving.

Saint Methodius then represents "the bring forth a man child, because the enlightened spiritually, receive the features and image of Christ. The likeness of the Logos/Word is stamped on them and is begotten within them by perfect knowledge and faith, and thus Christ is spiritually begotten in each one. Thus the Church is with child and labors until Christ is formed and born within us, so that each of the Saints by sharing in Christ is born again as Christ...Those who are baptized in Christ become, as it were, "christs" by a communication of the Spirit, and here it is that the Church effects the transformation into a clear image of the Logos/Word. (Source: Orthodox Heritage)

(To be continued)


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George