20th Nov 2012. By Rev Dr Steven Kau –
Marian apparitions are not a recent phenomenon. Devotion to the “Blessed Virgin Mary” has been a centerpiece of some believers for centuries.
However, the last century and a half has seen a dramatic increase in Marian devotion. This resurgence of the “cultus of the Virgin” can be attributed to two primary factors.
First, Mary’s already exalted status in the church was substantially enhanced by Catholicism’s official acceptance of the Marian dogma known as the “Immaculate Conception” (1854) and the Assumption. (1950) The second force behind Mary’s growth in popularity, especially among the laity is not so much doctrinal as experiential. It is her alleged appearances to people throughout the world.
These appearances (called apparitions) have occurred with increasing frequency since the nineteenth century and have attracted widespread attention. Pope Pius XII, in calling attention to the apparitions, referred to the nineteenth century as the “century of Marian predilection (i.e. preference).”
And the present century cannot be far behind: one leading Marian scholar (Gabriel Meyer – He is based in Medjugorje and writes for the National Catholic Register and Catholic Twin Circle) notes that there had been more than 200 reported apparitions since the 1930s alone.
Nativity scene with Joseph and Mary
With the various shrines dedicated to the particular apparitions attracting millions of pilgrims each year, it is easy to see that this phenomenon is having a substantial impact on lots of people . Since this phenomenon is attracting the attention of people throughout the world, it demands careful examination in the light of Scripture.
The word “apparition” comes from the Latin word ‘apparitio’ which means “appearance” or “presence.” An apparition refers to the sudden appearance of a supernatural entity which directly manifests itself to a human person or group. Within a Catholic context, it could be the presence or manifestation of any supernatural figure.
It is likely that, at least in some of these cases, the people were genuinely seeing something supernatural. While some of what is seen in various places is perhaps the work of charlatans, other apparitions were apparently authentic. However, an apparition being authentic does not mean it is a message from God or a genuine appearance of Mary, an angel or a saint.
Christian scholar Louis Bouyer describe an apparition as “a manifestation of God, angels or the dead (saints or not) appearing under a form that surprises the sense.” (Gabriel Meyer, ‘A Portrait of Medjugorje’ – Studio City, CA, Twin Circle publishing Company, 1990, pg.19) This revelation to the senses involves seeing but frequently also involve the other senses as well. Some apparitions, usually Mary, have included the hearing of voices, touching the figure and even the smelling of specific fragrances.
Throughout the middle ages, countless numbers of supposed supernatural manifestations were reported to the church. These included everything from physical healing (often connected to ancient relics) to statues and crucifixes which were reported to have bled. While many of these unusual occurrences have been discredited or rejected in modern times, apparitions have generally remained popular and credible in the eyes of some believers . People in the past have reported seeing apparitions of Jesus, various saints and even the Devil himself. But the most enduring and recognizable apparitions are those of the “Blessed Virgin Mary.”
Apparitions of Mary have been reported in church history as early as the fourth century. In fact, while official statistics are not kept, some Catholic theologians (Rene Laurentin and Rene Lejeune, “Messages and Teachings of Mary at Medjugorje’ – Milford, OH: The Riechie Foundation, 1988) speculated that there have been as many as 21,000 claimed sightings of Mary throughout history. Though this figure may be excessive, the Vatican “has acknowledged a ‘surprising increase’ in recent years in claims of ‘pseudo-mysticism, presumed apparitions, visions and messages’ associated with Mary.” (Rene Lauretin and Ljudevit Rupcic, ‘Is the Virgin Mary Appearing at Medjugorje?’ (Gaithersburg MD: The Word Among Us Press, 1984, pg. 26-27) As referred to earlier, the distinguished Marian scholar Rene Laurentin has counted over 200 reported apparitions in the last 60 years alone.
How are we to view such apparitions? Scriptures clearly warned us that the Deceiver often cleverly “transforms himself into an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14)
It is of great concern when these apparitions reveal themselves in their messages as possessing all of Christ’s distinct characteristics. These Marian apparitions claims to be our Mediator, our Intercessory, our Advocate, our Co-redeemer, our Suffering Servant and many other titles that reveal a possible deceptive agenda.
Some proponents of the Marian apparitions might protest this line of reasoning. Is it fair to focus only those messages that contradict Scripture? Shouldn’t we applaud the apparition of many for the good, biblical messages she has sent? Shouldn’t we focus on the transformed lives and the good fruit?
While the bulk of the apparition messages seem harmless, even biblical, is it possible that subtle deception mixed with truth might lead many down the pathway to destruction ?
CONSIDER WHAT THE BIBLE HAVE TO SAY :
The Bible states emphatically that God will not share His glory with another. “I am the Lord that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images.’ (Isaiah 42:8)
Those who are familiar with the Word of God know that we are to be cautious when dealing with alleged heavenly visitors.
The apostle John reminds us: “Beloved do not believe every spirit but test the spirits, whether they are of God.” (1 John 4:1)
“For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” (Matthew 24:24)
The principle way to test these reported messengers from heaven is to test their messages with the Bible.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
So the only way to determine whether an apparition is a “lying wonder” or a genuine message from God is to compare the message of the apparition with scripture.
Even Jesus disciple Peter was swayed into idolatry when he saw the apparition of Moses and Elijah , he wanted to build a shelter for them , but he was wrong in trying to do so. (Matthew 17) .
It is difficult to restraint church members from praying and worshipping such apparitions because it is so much a part of their belief and lifestyle. Don’t forget such apparitions are not exclusive to Christians. We have heard, read and even witness statues of the gods and deities of others weeping or bleeding and pronouncing blessing on their worshippers.
Just keep your eyes focus on Jesus Christ and not on these apparitions.
Jesus Christ is the only way, the truth and the life. No one can come to God except through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
He is the only mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5).
Rev. Dr. Steven Kau is the pastor of Faith Covenant Church ( FCC ). The church address is at 1-1 Jalan Putra Mahkota 7/5B, 47650 Putra Heights, Subang Jaya, Selangor. Sunday service in English starts at 10 am. His email contact – firstname.lastname@example.org
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