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ANF07. Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily
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from the twelfth chapter.

1. “And there was seen a great sign 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 out travailing, and bearing torments that she might bring forth.”] The woman clothed with the sun, and having the moon under her feet, and wearing a crown of twelve stars upon her head, and travailing in her pains, is the ancient Church of fathers, and prophets, and saints, and apostles,22982298     [No hint here that this was a manifestation of the Blessed Virgin, the modern fiction of Rome. See vol. vi, p. 355, this series.]   which had the groans and torments of its longing until it saw that Christ, the fruit of its people according to the flesh long promised to it, had taken flesh out of the selfsame people. Moreover, being clothed with the sun intimates the hope of resurrection and the glory of the promise. And the moon intimates the fall of the bodies of the saints under the obligation of death, which never can fail. For even as life is diminished, so also it is increased. Nor is the hope of those that sleep extinguished absolutely, as some think, but they have in their darkness a light such as the moon. And the crown of twelve stars signifies the choir of fathers, according to the fleshly birth, of whom Christ was to take flesh.  

3. “And there appeared another sign in heaven; and behold a red dragon, having seven heads.”] Now, that he says that this dragon was of a red colour—that is, of a purple colour—the result of his work gave him such a colour. For from the beginning (as the Lord says) he was a murderer; and he has oppressed the whole of the human race, not so much by the obligation of death, as, moreover, by the various forms of destruction and fatal mischiefs. His seven heads were the seven kings of the Romans, of whom also is Antichrist, as we have said above.  

“And ten horns.”] He says that the ten kings in the latest times are the same as these, as we shall more fully set forth there.  

4. “And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them upon the earth.”] Now, that he says that the dragon’s tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, this may be taken in two ways. For many think that he may be able to seduce the third part of the men who believe.22992299     [A noteworthy testimony to primitive interpretation.]   But it should more truly be understood, that of the angels that were subject to him, since he was still a prince when he descended from his estate, he seduced the third part; therefore what we said above, the Apocalypse says.  

“And the dragon stood before the woman who was beginning to bring forth, that, when she had brought forth, he might devour her child.”] The red dragon standing and desiring to devour her child when she had brought him forth, is the devil,—to wit, the traitor angel, who thought that the perishing of all men would be alike by death; but He, who was not born of seed, owed nothing to death: wherefore he could not devour Him—that is, detain Him in death—for on the third day He rose again. Finally, also, and before He suffered, he approached to tempt Him as man; but when he found that He was not what he thought Him to be, he departed from Him, even till the time. Whence it is here said:—  

5. “And she brought forth a son, who begins to rule all nations with a rod of iron.”] The rod of iron is the sword of persecution.  

“I saw that all men withdrew from his abodes.”] That is, the good will be removed, flying from persecution.23002300     [Compare Tertullian, De Fuga, vol. iv. p. 117, this series.]    

“And her son was caught up to God, and to His throne.”] We read also in the Acts of the Apostles that He was caught up to God’s throne, just as speaking with the disciples He was caught up to heaven.  

6. “But the woman fled into the wilderness, and there were given to her two great eagle’s wings.”] The aid of the great eagle’s wings—to wit, the gift of prophets—was given to that Catholic Church, whence in the last times a hundred and forty-four thousands of men should believe on the preaching of Elias; but, moreover, he here says that the rest of the people should be found alive on the coming of the Lord. And the Lord says in the Gospel: “Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains;”23012301     Luke xxi. 21.   that is, as many as should be gathered together in Judea, let them go to that place which they have ready, and let them be supported there for three years and six months from the presence of the devil.  

14. “Two great wings”] are the two prophets—Elias, and the prophet who shall be with him.  

15. “And the serpent cast out of his mouth after the woman water as a flood, that he might carry her away with the flood.”] He signifies by the water which the serpent cast out of his mouth, the people who at his command would persecute her.  

16. “And the earth helped the woman, and opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.”] That the earth opened her month and swallowed up the waters, sets forth the vengeance for the present troubles. Although, therefore, it may signify this woman bringing forth, it shows her afterwards flying when her offspring is brought forth, because both things did not happen at one time; for we know that Christ was born, but that the time should arrive that she should flee from the face of the serpent: (we do not know) that this has happened as yet. Then he says:—  

7–9. “There was a battle in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon warred, and his angels, and they prevailed not; nor was their place found any more in heaven. And that great dragon was cast forth, that old serpent: he was cast forth into the earth.”] This is the beginning of Antichrist; yet previously Elias must prophesy, and there must be times of peace. And afterwards, when the three years and six months are completed in the preaching of Elias, he also must be cast down from heaven, where up till that time he had had the power of ascending; and all the apostate angels, as well as Antichrist, must be roused up from hell. Paul the apostle says: “Except there come a falling away first, and the man of sin shall appear, the son of perdition; and the adversary who exalted himself above all which is called God, or which is worshipped.”23022302     2 Thess. ii. 3, 4.    


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