The signs described in Revelation chapter 12 can be interpreted to be the people Israel or the Church. The following are the reasons why the “Woman” can be interpreted to be Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Mary, is called with different titles in Sacred Scriptures. The Angel Gabriel calls her “Full of Grace” or “Truly Blessed” or “Highly Favored” (as some translations say), not “Mary” on that particular occasion (Luke 1:28). This is why Mary is troubled by those words and the royal greeting she received from the Angel: “Hail, Full of Grace” (1:29).
Throughout Sacred Scriptures we see that a person can be called by different titles. Jesus is also known as “Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14) (Matthew 1:23), “Lamb of God” (John 1:29), “Bread of Life” (John 6:35), “Wonderful”, “Counselor”, “Mighty God”, “Eternal Father”, “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9: 6). We see Jesus’ many titles or the different ways of how He can be called.
Similarly, Mary is called “Full of Grace” but she is also called “Woman”, particularly by her Son, who is God. Now, this must be interpreted taking into consideration the ancient Hebrew culture, not with our present culture 2,000 years later. Otherwise we lose the sense of the message or be led astray by understanding it through the lenses of a different culture. In the ancient Hebrew culture, calling “Woman” was a title of respect, as for us calling “Lady”, or even “Gentlewoman” (in archaic English culture), it is a sign of esteem or reverence (John 4:21) (8:10) (20:13) (20:15). Jesus, the new Adam (1 Cor 15:45), calls His mother “Woman”. It is not disrespectful as some people with different culture and current social environment think. Are you going to believe that Jesus dying on the Cross, with many wounds on His body, taking time to get air and breathe, talking with difficulty, was going to disrespect His mother or break one of His own Commandments (Exodus 20:12)? Of course not! in no case whatsoever (John 2:4) (John 19:26). And this title of “Woman” is related to the first prophecy that God makes:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your lineage and yours. He will crush your head and you will stalk your heel.” (Gen 3:15). This is precisely what happens in chapter 12 of Revelation, enmity between Satan and the “Woman” and her lineage.
Before understanding why the “Woman” from Revelation 12 is the Virgin Mary, let’s make clear why Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant through the following typology (prefigurations or foreshadowings – see CCC #’s 128-130 & 1094). There are different typologies throughout Scriptures, between the Old and the New Testament. For example: Abraham who sacrifices his only son with Sarah. This event of Isaac carrying his own wood for the sacrifice (Gen 22: 6 ff ) prefigures our Lord’s Passion. Jesus Himself teaches about typology:
“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up” (John 3:14 – NIV).
The snake on the pole (Numbers 21:8) foreshadowed Jesus on the Cross.
“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matt 12:40).
This event of prophet Jonah foreshadowed Jesus’ three days in earth and resurrection.
Similarly, we do have events that connect the Ark of the Covenant with the Blessed Virgin Mary, particularly in the Gospel of St. Luke:
— “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” (Exodus 40:34).
“The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35).
— “David was afraid of the LORD that day and said, “How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?“ (2 Sam 6: 9).
“But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43).
— “Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.” (2 Sam 6: 14-15).
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41).
— “The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the LORD blessed him and his entire household.” (2 Sam 6:11).
“Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.” (Luke 1:56).
After dancing in front of the Ark of the Covenant, King David said:
— “I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” (2 Sam 6:22).
Mary said similarly:
“And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed“ (Luke 1:46-48).
Now let’s see what the Ark of the Covenant contained:
“Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.” (Hebrews 9: 3-4).
“Manna” the miraculous bread given to the Israelites in the desert which, by the way, has not decomposed.
“The rod of Aaron” which represents the High Priesthood.
“The tables of the Covenant” the Word of God.
What was Mary carrying in her womb?: Jesus, who is:
The Bread of Life (John 6:35)
“The High Priest” (Hebrews 4:14) who will rule the nations with an iron scepter or “rod” (Revelation 12:5).
“The Word of God” (John 1: 1) (1:14)
So we see that these cannot be mere “coincidences” and that the Ark of the Covenant was a “shadow” of what Mary, the mother of Jesus, was going to be.
Without a doubt, Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant (Matthew 26:28) and, as the book of Hebrews teaches us, “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming–not the realities themselves…” (Hebrews 10:1). So, the realities of the N.T. are even better than the “shadows” of the O.T., and the old Ark was something highly venerated or respected.
Now, what does Mary being the Ark of the New Covenant has to do with the woman from Revelation 12?
Will continue with Part 2… (Part 2 here).