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The Great Sign in Heaven
What if God gave us a sign, would we even notice it? What if God, like He has done before, gave us a heavenly sign, a portent of great and terrible events? Would we even take notice? Are we, like so many that have come before us, so busy in our day-to-day lives that we never bother to even look up anymore? What if God gave us a heavenly sign today, would we notice? And if we did notice, would we care or just ignore it as some superstitious nonsense?
What if I told you that there is a forthcoming astronomical event that closely mirrors a sign from the Book of Revelation, stunning in its precision, context, and timing? Would you look up?
“And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars:
And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered.
And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns: and on his head seven diadems:
And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered; that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son.
And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with an iron rod: and her son was taken up to God, and to his throne. “
The Star of Bethlehem
Before I begin, I think it is important to establish some sense of context. We take it as an established and undeniable part of our faith that, 2,000 years ago, God used an astronomical event to communicate with man, the Star of Bethlehem. Many people, when picturing the Star of Bethlehem, if they picture it at all, think of this massive bright star over Bethlehem that was so obvious to everyone that it sent the Magi on a long trek to find the promised king.
We know that version of events is in error, for when the Magi arrived in Jerusalem, just 8 kilometers from Bethlehem, they had to explain what it was they saw and why they interpreted it the way they did. King Herod, his court, and the rest of Jerusalem were largely ignorant of the events of the Star of Bethlehem. The people of Jerusalem, like us today, were busy providing for their families and going about their daily duties. Even though this great sign announcing the birth of the Savior, the very Son of God, was going on above their heads, they neither noticed it, nor cared about it.
In order to understand the proper context of the potential Revelation 12 sign, it is helpful to further examine the Star of Bethlehem. What was the Star of Bethlehem and how did the Magi see it when everybody else missed it? Short answer, they were paying attention.
I think that there is a compelling case that the Star of Bethlehem was a series of regular astronomical events involving rare conjunctions that symbolically indicated the birth of a king. It is important to note that this is emphatically not astrology. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines astrology as:
“…type of divination that involves the forecasting of earthly and human events through the observation and interpretation of the fixed stars, the Sun, the Moon, and the planets. Devotees believe that an understanding of the influence of the planets and stars on earthly affairs allows them to both predict and affect the destinies of individuals, groups, and nations.”
The Catholic Church explicitly condemns astrology, as it does all forms of divination (CCC 2116). But signs like the Star of Bethlehem are not divination of fates ordered by the stars, but regular astronomy and symbology with the idea that the God of the universe sometimes uses His creation to communicate with man. The bible is replete with instances that make this case. Psalm 19 states:
1 …The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. 3 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world…
— PSALM 19:1-4
Paul directly quotes this Psalm in Romans when making the case that the Jews had knowledge that the Messiah had come.
17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. 18 But I ask: Did they [the Jews] not hear? Of course they did: “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”
— ROMANS 10:17-18
Paul is clearly making the case that the Jews had knowledge of the Messiah because the heavens told them so. Obviously Paul is not endorsing astrology, but indicating that God can and does sometimes use the heavens to announce His plans. There is much more that can be said on the differences between astrology and understanding heavenly signs, but suffice it for now to say that looking to the heavens for confirmation and announcement of God’s plans is legitimate within the proper context and application.
So what was the Star of Bethlehem? As mentioned, I think there is a compelling case that the Star of Bethlehem was a series of astronomical events with significant symbolism. More detail can be seen at BethlehemStar.net, but I will attempt a brief summary.
In 3/2 B.C., there occurred a rare triple conjunction of Jupiter (the king planet, through its retrograde motion) and Regulus (the king star). The Magi likely interpreted this rare triple conjunction as a giant neon sign in the heavens blinking KING-KING-KING. This all began at the Jewish New year and all within the constellation of Leo (the lion, a symbol of the tribe of Judah). So it heavily symbolized Jewish King from the tribe of Judah, a clear indication for those familiar with the Messiah. Further, rising right behind Leo was the constellation Virgo, with the sun and the moon at her feet.
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After this incredible triple conjunction, Jupiter began moving westward in the sky, eventually coming into conjunction with Venus, a planet long symbolically associated with motherhood. The conjunction of the king planet and the motherhood planet was so close, that no man alive had ever seen anything like it and together it formed the brightest object in the sky.
All this symbolism of a Jewish king from Judah and a Virgin was enough to get the well-versed Magi moving to Jerusalem, but you can understand why the average citizen of Jerusalem missed it.
Jupiter continued its western movement in the sky until it finally stopped. When it stopped (as seen from Jerusalem), it stopped directly south, directly over the small village of Bethlehem, on December 25 of 2 B.C.
This may be easily seen with modern star programs that can show you the night sky on any date in history from any perspective. It is the advent of such computer programs that now allows us to not only look at the past, but to look at the skies of the future.
Given the context of all I just described, it is when we turn our gaze to the heavens of the future that once again we are treated to heavenly signs of great symbolism.
Let us revisit the opening verses of Revelation 12.
"And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars: And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered.”
The author of Revelation clearly indicates that this vision is one of a sign in heaven or in the sky. What do we see in the sky of the near future?
On November 20, 2016, an astronomical event begins that will last nine and a half months, culminating in startling concurrence with the vision of Revelation 12. While I am not an astronomer, all my research indicates that this astronomical event, in all its particulars, is unique in the history of man.
On November 20, 2016, Jupiter (the King planet) enters into the body (womb) of the constellation Virgo (the virgin). Jupiter, due its retrograde motion, will spend the next 9 ½ months within the womb of Virgo. This length of time corresponds with gestation period of a normal late-term baby.
After 9 ½ months, Jupiter exits out of the womb of Virgo. Upon Jupiter’s exit (birth), on September 23, 2017, we see the constellation Virgo with the sun rise directly behind it (the woman clothed with the sun). At the feet of Virgo, we find the moon. And upon her head we find a crown of twelve stars, formed by the usual nine stars of the constellation Leo with the addition of the planets Mercury, Venus, and Mars.
That is a truly remarkable and, as far as I can determine, unique series of event with a startling degree of concurrence with the vision of Revelation 12.
So what does it mean, if anything? The obvious and truthful answer is that we simply do not know. That said, we are not entirely without possible context.
It just so happens that these events transpire during the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of “the woman clothed in the sun,” Our Lady at Fatima in 1917. The culmination of these astronomical events occurs just 3 weeks before the 100th anniversary of the great miracle of Fatima, in which the sun “danced” (another heavenly sign), an event that was witnessed by many thousands.
In the almost century that has followed that great event, we have seen Our Lady’s warnings come true with startling precision. People did not cease offending God and we have seen terrible wars, nations annihilated, and Russia spread her errors throughout the world and, if we are honest, even into the Church itself. And yet, we still await the fulfillment of her promises, the triumph of Her Immaculate Heart, and a period of peace to be granted to the world.
But what you may not know is that within the Fatima story itself, there are indications that a 100-year period might be significant. In August 1931, Sister Lucy was staying with a friend at Rianjo, Spain. There, Our Lord appeared to Sr. Lucy and He complained the requests of His mother had not been heeded saying, “Make it known to My ministers, given that they follow the example of the King of France in delaying the execution of My command, they will follow him into misfortune. It is never too late to have recourse to Jesus and Mary.”
And again in another text, Sr. Lucy quoted Our Lord as saying, “They did not wish to heed My request! ... Like the King of France, they will repent of it, and they will do it, but it will be late. Russia will have already spread its errors in the world, provoking wars and persecutions against the Church. The Holy Father will have much to suffer.”
Those references to the King of France are very interesting for our discussion as this is an explicit reference to the requests of the Sacred Heart given through Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque on June 17, 1689 to the King of France. King Louis XIV and his successors failed to heed Our Lord’s request to publicly consecrate France to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As a result, on June 17, 1789, one hundred years to the day after the request, the National Assembly of the French Revolution rose up and declared itself the government of France and stripped the king of his power. Later, the king lost his head to the revolution.
Now it is not possible to know the relevance of this 100-year allusion or to know if and when the clock may have started ticking, but it is certainly interesting and relevant in this context.
And of course, many are familiar with the vision of Pope Leo XIII in which he allegedly heard Satan granted one hundred years to try and destroy the Church. Immediately after this vision, Pope Leo XIII composed the prayer to St. Michael pleading with the Archangel to defend us in battle and be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. Pope Leo XIII then added the Leonine prayers to the end of the mass, later suppressed during Vatican II.
As we live through these tumultuous times in the Church, in which the very foundations of faith, even the very words and commands of Our Savior are diminished and ignored, it is impossible not to recall Pope Leo’s vision.
Speaking of our current crisis, in this era of false mercy, I must also note that the date the astronomical event begins, November 20, 2016, is the very day that Pope Francis’ declared “Year of Mercy” comes to an end. The very same day is the Feast of Christ the King.
In conclusion, I must stress that I make no specific claim of the significance, if any, of the astronomical event I described. Further, I make no claim to know the future or of any forthcoming events relating to the fulfillment of the promises of Fatima. I only relate this to you now as I find myself in a similar situation as those Magi 2,000 years ago. I look to the sky and say, “Alright Lord, you have my attention.”