Ver. 1. A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet. By this woman, interpreters commonly understand the Church of Christ, shining with the light of faith, under the protection of the sun of justice, Jesus Christ. The moon, the Church, hath all changeable things of this world under her feet, the affections of the faithful being raised above them all.
--- A woman: the Church of God. It may also, by allusion, be applied to our blessed Lady. The Church is clothed with the sun, that is, with Christ: she hath the moon, that is, the changeable things of the world, under her feet; and the twelve stars with which she is crowned, are the twelve apostles: she is in labour and pain, whilst she brings forth her children, and Christ in them, in the midst of afflictions and persecutions. Ch.
--- Under the figure of a woman and of a dragon, are represented the various attempts of Satan to undermine the Church.
--- On her head . . . twelve stars, her doctrine being delivered by the twelve apostles and their successors. Wi.
Ver. 2. With child, &c. to signify that the Church, even in the time of persecutions, brought forth children to Christ. Wi.
--- It likewise signifies the difficulties which obstructed the first propagation of Christianity. Past.
Ver. 3. Another wonder in heaven; that is, in the Church of Christ, though revealed to S. John, in the visions, as if they were seen in heaven.
--- A great red dragon; a fiery dragon, with seven heads and ten horns; i.e. many heads and many horns. By the dragon is generally understood the devil, (see v. 7 and 9) and by the heads and horns, kings and princes, who act under him, persecuting the servants of God. Wi.
--- Dragon, &c. the devil; and by the seven heads and ten horns, are meant those princes and governors who persecute the Church of Christ. Calmet.
Ver. 4. His tail drew the third part of the stars: a great part of mankind. This is spoken with an allusion to the fall of Lucifer from heaven, with the rebellious angels, driven from thence by S. Michael. Wi.
--- According to Pastorini, this passage refers to the angels whom Lucifer drew after him by sin to the earth. Menochius interprets it of those bishops and eminent persons who fell under the weight of persecution, and apostatized.
--- And the dragon stood before the woman, &c. The devil is always ready, as far as God permits him, to make war against the Church and the faithful servants of God. The woman, the Church, brought a man child, or rather many men children, stout and valiant in the profession of the true faith, able to resist and triumph over the attempts of the persecutors in all nations, not of themselves, but by the grace and power of Jesus Christ, their protector, who is able to rule all nations as it were with a rod of iron, to frustrate all their attempts, and turn their hearts as he pleaseth. Wi.
Ver. 5. A man child; that is, a masculine race of Christians, willing to confess the name of the Lord, and to fight his battles; who, through the merits of Jesus Christ, should triumph over all the attempts of the world. Calmet.
--- Her son (or children) was taken up to heaven, guarded by the special favour of God. They always overcome the devil, and all their adversaries, by reason of the blood of the Lamb, by the merits of Christ. And they loved not the life of the body, so as to preserve it, by incurring the death of the soul. Wi.
Ver. 6. The woman fled into the wilderness. The Church, in the times of persecutions, must be content to serve God in a private manner; but by divine Providence, such persecutions never lasted with violence only for a short time, signified by 1260 days, or as the same is expressed here, (v. 14) for a time, and times, and half a time, i.e. for a year, and two years, and half a year. Wi.
--- The Christians were accustomed to fly during the times of persecution into the deserts, to avoid the fury of the pagans. This was done by the greatest saints; and S. Jerom remarks, that it was this which gave rise to the eremitical state of life.
Ver. 10-12. Now is come salvation . . . rejoice, O ye heavens. The blessed in heaven rejoice for the victories of the faithful on earth, and also for the reward and glory which would shortly be given them in heaven. Wi.
--- Wo to the earth, &c. Both Pastorini and Calmet refer this wo to the persecution of Dioclesian. The dragon, the devil, is more irritated than ever against the Christians; he therefore stimulates the pagans to exercise their utmost cruelty against them, knowing that a Christian emperor (Constantine) would in a short time extend the reign of Jesus Christ over the whole world.
Ver. 14. There were given to the woman two wings of a great eagle. By these two wings, some understand the love of God, and the fear of offending him; others, piety, prudence, &c. Wi.
--- The Church, on account of the severe pressure of the persecution, obtained from the Almighty a special protection and assistance. Past.
Ver. 15. The serpent (the dragon, the devil) came out of his mouth, &c. He endeavoured to destroy the Christian religion; but the earth, that is, the princes of the earth, as God was pleased to turn their hearts, helped to turn away the persecutions. Wi.
--- As a last effort, the devil raises a more bloody persecution than was ever known before. See Euseb. Hist. Eccles.
Ver. 16. And the earth helped the woman. A prince of the earth, Constantine, came to the succour of the Church, and caused the persecution to cease.
Ver. 18. And he stood upon the sand of the sea;† i.e. the dragon seemed to be at a stand, to rest a while, not being able to raise any more persecutions. Now as to the time that these things should come to pass, many by seven heads and ten horns understand many powerful wicked kings, who should persecute the good, especially about antichrist's time, when the faithful at different times should be oppressed, and forced to fly as it were into the wilderness to worship God in private. And when the end of the world seems to draw near, the devil with greater malice will persecute God's servants, his time being short. Others apply these predictions to the particular persecutions in the Church by the Jews, and by the heathen emperors in the first three Christian ages before Constantine's time, when idolatry was destroyed, when the face of the Church was changed, and when she became victorious, and publicly triumphed over her former enemies, the heathens; and by the man child, whom God took under his special protection, they will have to be understood Constantine himself. Wi.
[†] V. 18. Et stetit super arenam maris. The ordinary Greek copies, estaqhn, steti, which the Prot. translators followed, beginning chapter xiii. with these words, and I stood upon the sand of the sea, as if S. John spoke of himself. But Dr. Wells, in his amendments, has corrected the Prot. translation, and restored the reading estaqh, stetit, as we find it in the Latin Vulgate. I have reckoned near upon a hundred places in the Apocalypse only, wherein Dr. Wells has preferred those readings in the Greek MSS. which are conformable to our Latin Vulgate.