Several people have posted about and have asked me my thoughts on September 23rd and the celestial line of that is taking place. If you haven’t heard about it, people have been sharing and talking about, during this 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima that on September 23rd there will be a line up of stars, planets, the sun and moon that will mirror the image of the woman from Revelation 12.1. Some have said its a sign of the end of the world, others that its a miraculous event to take place, others, the rapture. As a priest, a man of faith, but also a thinker, lover of science and especially astronomy, I will offer my personal thoughts.
The line up consists of the constellation Virgo, one of the zodiacs, having a array of 12 ‘stars’ over it (three of them being the planets Mars, Venus and Mercury) with the planet Jupiter (the ‘king’ planet) coming out of her with the Sun behind her and the moon at her feet. Its said that this has not happened in 7,000 years.
- The line up of this is actually fairly common. Virgo being a zodiac simply means it is one of the constellations that occurs on the “ecliptic” which is the line through which the sun passes. There are several other constellations that the sun ‘passes through’ but each month, the one the sun rises in, is said to be the zodiac of the month thus making 12 main ones. Hence, its a very normal and actually predictable that the sun would be in virgo. Can you guess what is the time frame the sun passes through virgo? August 23- September 22. Thus every year at this time the Sun is where it is in Virgo.
- The ecliptic is an important thing to understand because its the line that everything orbiting the sun rides on. The sun’s gravity pulls all the planets to the same angle of revolution around it so thus even though the planets are different distances, they are all mostly on the same plane. Imagine swinging several balls on ropes around your head: they would all be in the same plane even if you had them measured out at different distances. Why I mention this is because the sun, the moon, the planets and the zodiacs are ALL is this ecliptic and thus in the sky are all in the same area. Through the course of a night you can trace all of them following roughly the same east to west path through the sky. There wont be much variation. That is why planets lining up or coming close is not uncommon. So though it doesn’t happen often which is indeed very cool, its not impossible.
- Besides from being possible, this exact line up has happened several times in the last 200 years. So far from being rarer than 7,000 years, it has happened pretty recently. Also, the 3 planets at the top are a bit of a novelty but the presence of stars above Virgo (the constellation Leo) has always been there. There are many more than 12 stars in that constellation and even if you only count the stars bright enough to see, that only makes the amount about 8 or 9
- Indeed this line up is occurring but if you didn’t have a Stellarium app, you would not be able to see hardly anything of it. The three planets and Leo (the stars at the head) will all be occurring in the morning. The bottom half of Virgo, the moon, Jupiter and the sun will all be in the evening and even then only in the first few minutes of the twilight. It will quickly set and then thats it. Thus, even if you knew what to look for, you would not be able to see this whole line up.
- As a man of faith, God does indeed use signs and wonders. I do believe God had and does use signs to show his wonders and such. One of the best examples is the star of Bethlehem that pointed to Christ. However, a) these things are always very clear and apparent, not something that takes a lot of convincing and coercing to show. b) God has not in scripture nor in any revelation spoken of us seeing this. Revelation speaks of a woman in the heavens in a more mystical scene in that she being Mary is in a spiritual battle with the evil one. Looking too much for signs in the heavens like this runs closer to superstition and astrology than it does to the faith. The faith is just that, faith and trust that God and his providence are leading and to not look through our own efforts to know the where or whens of God’s plan.
- Mary has indeed appeared many times and given messages but again, they are all very clear and apparent messages that all it takes is someone of faith to say yes to. They are things that can’t necessarily be disproved. I think of the saying of St. Thomas Aquinas: “To the one who has faith, no explanation is necessary, to the one without faith, no explanation is possible”. Rene Laurentin, one of the greatest Marian experts ever, said Even with the different apparitions and the apparent more frequent occurrence, Mary’s message has never been any different than the gospel: pray, fast, turn to God. She has been appearing more and more because of the greater troubles our world has found itself in, not to say “we are about to end”.
- Rene Laurentin also affirmed something true about true Marian apparitions: even if they approved by the Church, it doesn’t mean we obliged to believe it. They are not dogma or crutial simply that they do not contradict the faith and can be good to believe in.
- About the end of the world. We don’t know when it will come. This is echoed by the church in the Catechism and in the Gaudium et Spes document. We, us humans but also all creation, are on a journey, carrying through the hardships of this life longing from conpletion in Christ. We should look at the end of the world in the same way we look at the end of our lives: the sufferings and pains we go through point to that we will die, but we don’t know exactly when but we know that death is not something to fear because Christ has promised us resurrection. We will have a judgment but then we will reach the longed for reward according to how we have lived. These same truths hold true for the world; there will be and end but then resurrection and a general judgement.
As always, we should live everyday as though it could be our last. We do not know when the world will end but almost as unsure is when we will die. We should all be trying to live the best we can, going to confession often, praying often, doing works of charity, bettering ourselves etc. However, not to be done with fear but with faith.
I hope this has helped, again you are free to disagree but this is some of my personal thoughts. God bless you all.