Many things are predicted in relation to signs that will occur before the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the 24th chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew, and the Apocalypse of St. John especially, we see the use of apocalyptic language to convey important ideas that transcend prose but are more aptly rendered symbolically. For example:
But immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened
and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and
the powers of heaven will be shaken.
When Christ walked the earth, he was indeed not only the Son of God, the Second Person of the most Holy Trinity, but he was the Sun the light of the world:
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life. John 8:12
The Church, the one true Church which our Lord founded, is to continue diffusing that light after His ascension into heaven. The Church is therefore the extension of Christ in space and time and will in some fashion remain until the Lord comes again. When sacred scripture speaks of the sun being darkened, the important concept here is not so much a cosmological reality but an ecclesial reality—the Church will be eclipsed, it will not shine its light. This is far worse than the sun itself losing its light, and the plagues that are spoken of ravaging through the world rendering physical damage. St. Augustine, the most illustrious Doctor of the Church, has an important commentary on this idea:
For when the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its
light, and the stars fall from the sky, and the powers of heaven will
be shaken, as is recalled by the other two evangelists in this place,
THE CHURCH WILL NOT APPEAR. Then the wicked persecutors
will rage beyond measure, unafraid, enjoying worldly happiness saying
“peace and security.” Then the stars will fall from the sky, and the
powers of heaven will be moved; because many who were shining
with grace, will yield to their persecutors, and will fall, and some of
the strongest among the faithful will be shaken.
“The Church will not appear.” With every other crisis the Church has endured in its long 2000 year history, the Church was still visible. But in our time the prophecy of the Church being darkened has come about.
We will explore this in subsequent installments of this column.