This year's celestial event occurs on a significant day and year in the Church's calendar.
The eclipse will occur on August 21. The primary feast for this day is Saint Pius X, a pope who chose the motto “to renew all things in Christ.” He is most well known for lowering the age of Holy Communion and said, “Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to Heaven.”
Another celebration on August 21 in the Church’s calendar is Our Lady of Knock. It was on August 21, 1879 that the Virgin Mary appeared to 15 people in a small parish church in Ireland. Three figures appeared, that of the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph and St. John. Furthermore, a witness described, “Above the altar and resting on it was a lamb and around it I saw golden stars, or small brilliant lights, glittering like jets or glass balls, reflecting the light of some luminous body.” Additionally, “a farmer in the distance, about half a mile away from the scene, went out to have a look at his land. He saw something that attracted his attention; he described what he saw as a large globe of golden light.”
What’s interesting is that Our Lady of Knock spoke no words as at other of her appearances. Soon after, cures were reported at the site of the apparition and Our Lady of Knock is still strengthening the faith of the Irish and other devotees from around the world.
Last of all the solar eclipse occurs during the year of the 100th anniversary of Fatima. The famous apparitions of Mary ended with one last “Miracle of the Sun” that occurred on October 13, 1917. People describe what they saw that day as the sun “dancing” in the sky; they were able to gaze at the sun without hurting their eyes. It was a miracle witnessed by thousands of people.
In Christian symbolism the moon is often seen as a symbol of the Virgin Mary, since it reflects the light of the sun just as she reflects the light of the Son of God. At the same time, in Revelation she is described as, “clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet” (Revelation 12:1).
All of these events and symbolism can come to mind on Aug. 21 as we enjoy the eclipse (take the needed precautions to protect your eyes!), remembering Mary’s role in Salvation History. She is the one in whom we find refuge in times of trial and who intercedes on our behalf.
Furthermore, earlier this year Pope Francis highlighted the absence of Mary’s presence in the Gospel narratives between Christ’s childhood and crucifixion. He said, “the sacred writers suggest this slow eclipsing of her presence, her remaining silent before the mystery of a Son who obeys the Father. However, Mary reappears precisely at the crucial moment: when a large number of friends disperse out of fear. Mothers do not abandon.”
This reflection by Pope Francis brings all of this symbolism together and encourages us not to lose hope when the world is floundering in darkness. Mary will be there when we need her and she will never abandon us during our trials in the “vale of tears.” She may appear to be silent, but will comfort us in our sorrow and always points our souls to the rising of the Son, giving us hope that all will be renewed in Christ.
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