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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Revelation 12,1-6

Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, robed with the sun, standing on the moon, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

She was pregnant, and in labour, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth.

Then a second sign appeared in the sky: there was a huge red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, and each of the seven heads crowned with a coronet.

Its tail swept a third of the stars from the sky and hurled them to the ground, and the dragon stopped in front of the woman as she was at the point of giving birth, so that it could eat the child as soon as it was born.

The woman was delivered of a boy, the son who was to rule all the nations with an iron sceptre, and the child was taken straight up to God and to his throne,

while the woman escaped into the desert, where God had prepared a place for her to be looked after for twelve hundred and sixty days.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

In this passage, John presents the central theme of the book of Revelation: the incarnation of the Son of God, who died and has risen. The woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and her head encircled by a crown of twelve stars, is the new Eve. She is Mary, figure of Israel and of the Church. She is pre-chosen by God to keep watch over his mystery, his presence. She gives birth to the Saviour, the Emmanuel, the "great portent" that God gives to men and women. John’s primary intention is show the woman as the personification of the people of God, the Church, within whom the Messiah is born (the twelve tribes of Israel). The Child who is generated is Jesus. But just as the woman is about to give birth, an enormous red dragon leaps in front of her, ready to devour the Child as soon as it is born. With this birth, the author is not referring to the birth of Bethlehem as much as to the birth that took place on the morning of Easter with the resurrection. And the birth pangs correspond to the suffering of Calvary. With his seven heads, the dragon is the symbol of an enormous power whose ten horns manifest an invincible strength and whose seven royal crowns incarnate the abusive, usurping brutality of evil that often hides under great powers. Yes, Evil opposes the Gospel with all of its strength in a never-ending war that has been a part of human history since the beginning when Adam and Eve let themselves be ensnared by its poisonous and persuasive voice. At the end of history, Evil unleashes all of its strength for a final battle. Even the Church is called to fight to stay faithful to God and to generate the Son of God in the hearts of men and women. Through the communication of the Gospel, Jesus himself can be born in people’s hearts, which is how the Christian community is formed. Every generation is called to listen to the Gospel anew and be reborn. This is the meaning of the image of the woman fleeing into the desert, a place that recalls Israel’s exodus from Egypt and is seen both as a place of temptation and sin and as the moment of intimacy between God and Israel. The Christian community has to retrace in its own heart the journey made by Israel. This cannot be done without effort and opposition. Just as the Lord protected Israel from its enemies, so he will also protect the Community of believers. We will have to struggle against evil all along this path, starting in our own hearts. The Lord stands beside us, as he himself has said: "And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20).

Memory of the Saints and the Prophets