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wings of the great eagle
Question from bonifacia on 4/28/2001:

Blessings,

In John's book of Revelation, the woman is given 'wings of the great eagle' in order to flee to a place that had been prepared for her. Since we know John as the eagle, what does this mean, or is there no connection? I have never heard it specifically addressed.

Thank you for your time once again,

Bonifacia

Answer by Fr. John Echert on 5/6/2001:

The book of Revelation describes the great sign of the Woman clothed with the sun who is pursued by the Dragon:

12:13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had borne the male child. 12:14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 12:15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood. 12:16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river which the dragon had poured from his mouth. 12:17 Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

This woman may be understood at more than one symbolic level. She is first and foremost the Mother of our Lord, who gave birth to her Son Jesus Christ. Satan attempted to destroy Christ Himself, having worked to have Him nailed to the Cross, which became his own defeat when God used the Cross as the new Tree of Life for humanity. Having failed in this, he next would have attacked the woman herself, but she was given protection by the Lord, as symbolized by the image of the wings of an eagle. One early Father, Epiphanius, saw this as possibly fulfilled in the case of Mary herself and in the present time in light of the Assumption, we might see this as describing this privilege granted to her. So too, as we see in the following examples from the Old Testament, the symbol of an eagle protecting its young with its powerful wings is a representation of the protective care of God for His people:

19:3 And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 19:4 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. 19:5 Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, 19:6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel." 19:7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the LORD had commanded him. (Ex)

32:9 For the LORD's portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage. "He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. 32:11 Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, (Dt)

17:6 I call upon thee, for thou wilt answer me, O God; incline thy ear to me, hear my words. 17:7 Wondrously show thy steadfast love, O savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at thy right hand. 17:8 Keep me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of thy wings, from the wicked who despoil me, my deadly enemies who surround me. (Ps)

36:6 Thy righteousness is like the mountains of God, thy judgments are like the great deep; man and beast thou savest, O LORD. 36:7 How precious is thy steadfast love, O God! The children of men take refuge in the shadow of thy wings. (Ps)

Now at the secondary level of interpretation, the Woman clothed with the sun is also a symbol of God's People, consistent with the image of woman used throughout the Old and New Testaments. Jesus Christ was brought forth from the covenant people of Israel and when Satan failed to stop the act of Redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ and could no longer attack the Lord who now sits upon the heavenly throne, the Evil One continued his assaults upon the new covenant people, the New Israel otherwise known as the Church. But God provides protection for the Church, first for those around the area of Jerusalem at the core and subsequently to the Church scattered throughout the Empire. Satan will rage against the nations until the end of time; his power is limited against those baptized into Christ but not so in the world at large. He may have one last assault upon the Church itself just prior to the end, after which he will be confined to eternal death in hell, along with those whom he has seduced away from Christ. ©

Thanks, Bonifacia

Father Echert

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