SPRING 1916 – THE FIRST APPARITION OF THE ANGEL TO LUCIA, FRANCISCO, AND JACINTA
The great drama of Fatima begins in 1916 with three apparitions of an angel. If an extraordinary event happens in our lives, we have to consider particularly its beginning and its end. The beginning initiates an important change in our life (e.g. beginning of studies, the conversion to the faith, the first meeting of the future spouse, the first signs of vocation, etc.); the end is like the crown and summary of all, what happened to us through such an event (the final examinations after long studies, the sacrament of marriage, the priestly ordination, etc.). Similarly, in great manifestations of God, a special attention is to be given to its beginnings and ends: the beginnings can be compared to the foundation on which the whole will be built, and the ends are like the accomplishment of the building.
Since 1916, Francisco and Jacinta had permission from their parents to join their cousin Lucy in taking care of the flock of sheep of both families. Lucia was 9, Francisco just 8, and Jacinta was 6 years old.
One day in spring 1916, the children were with the sheep in the olive groves near their native village Aljustrel. As was their habit, around noon they prayed the rosary, and after a small lunch they began to play.
“We had enjoyed the game for a few moments only, when a strong wind began to shake the trees. We looked up, startled, to see what was happening, for the day was unusually calm. Then we saw coming towards us, above the olive trees, the figure I have already spoken about. Jacinta and Francisco had never seen it before, nor had I ever mentioned it to them. As it drew closer, we were able to distinguish its features. It was a young man, about fourteen or fifteen years old, whiter than snow, transparent as crystal when the sun shines through it, and of great beauty.
We were surprised, absorbed, and speechless with amazement.
On reaching us, he said: ‘Do not be afraid! I am the Angel of Peace! Pray with me!’
Kneeling on the ground, he bowed down until his forehead reached the ground.
Led by a supernatural impulse, we did the same, and repeated the words which we heard him say: ‘My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You! I ask pardon of You for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love You!’
Having repeated these words three times, he rose and said:
‘Pray thus. The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications.’ Then he disappeared.”
Let us meditate about this first intervention of Heaven:
- THE UNUSUAL STRONG WIND: If we meditate on the great manifestations of God in the Bible, they are often linked with a sudden and mysterious wind: e.g. the prophet Elias at Mount Horeb, the Apostles in the Cenacle on the day of Pentecost. Also, when the Immaculata appeared the first time in Lourdes, Saint Bernadette was surprised by “a noise that sounded like a gust of wind”.
Psalm 103 says: “You make the winds your messengers, you walk on the wings of the wind”. The Hebrew word for Spirit can be translated as “strong wind”. This first fact brings Fatima close to the great manifestations of God in the world. Through the wind, God creates a supernatural atmosphere that blows away all darkness and evil, and brings light and heavenly peace.
- THE FIRST WORDS: “Fear not! I am the Angel of Peace”: these words are like an echo from the Gospel. When the Angel appeared to Zacharias in the temple to announce the conception of Saint John the Baptist, or after having greeted Our Lady on the day of the Annunciation, he said: ‘Fear not, Mary”. When he appeared to Saint Joseph, or to the women coming to the tomb of Jesus the morning of His resurrection, he said: “Fear not!”
- THE APPEARANCE OF THE ANGEL: When Lucy was asked about the appearance of the Angel, she often declared: “Era de luz – He was of light!” Here again an echo of the Gospel: the Angel who announced the Resurrection of Our Lord had an appearance as of lightning, and his clothes were white as snow (Mt. 28, 3). And the evangelist describes Our Lord during His Transfiguration: His face shone like the sun, and His garments became white as snow (Mt. 17, 12). “God is light, and in Him is no darkness” (1Jn. 1, 5) and whenever He deigns to manifest Himself to men (by the ministry of His angels or His Holy Mother), He appears always clothed in splendor and light. This mystery of LIGHT is very often mentioned throughout the manifestations in Fatima.
- THE OVERWHELMING DIVINE PRESENCE: Lucy comments on the apparition of the Angel: “The supernatural atmosphere which enveloped us was so intense that for a long time we were scarcely aware of our own existence, remaining in the same posture in which he had left us, and continually repeating the same prayer. The presence of God made itself felt so intimately and intensely that we did not even venture to speak to one another”. The presence of God is something stupendous, even crushing, for our weak human faculties. But this “annihilation before the divine presence” was for the three children the best school of true humility, which is the intimate knowledge of the infinite sanctity of God and the nothingness of the creature.
LESSONS FOR US:
- THE ANGELS AMONGST US:
Fatima begins with the apparition of the Angel. God wants to make us reflect and appreciate the existence of the “invisible world”, and its importance for us. The angels as pure spirits remind us that we are created for eternity: they are an echo of God’s transcendence, majesty, and holiness. In our materialistic world, which appreciates only what falls under our 5 senses, the presence of the angels is an important remedy: they proclaim the priority of the spiritual over the material, of the eternal over the temporal.
The angels are also a reflection of God’s infinite beauty – in all apparitions of angels in history is recalled their incredible beauty, full of brightness and light. As “beauty is the splendor and the glorious manifestation of the true and the good” according to Saint Thomas Aquinas, the angels make us love and admire what is true and good, and at the same time they give us a sound aversion towards all that is ugly, all that is false and evil!
Finally, they are a reflection of God’s almighty power and strength. Saint Michael the Archangel cast Lucifer and all of his followers out of Heaven into hell. The translation of the name Gabriel is power of God. Raphael guides Tobias with extreme power to protect him from greatest evils. Especially in our times we feel our extreme weakness and deficiency: first of all, each examination of conscience shows us that in our own selves, we are completely degenerated in comparison to the strong generations of our ancestors. Secondly, because of the domination of the “powers of darkness” everywhere, in the measure that we live, in the presence and under the protection of the angels, we overcome easily all temptations. Let us not forget that God sent the angels to protect us, to take care of us, and to be our guardians. In general, we totally underestimate their power and desire to assist us in all situations of our life. In Fatima, the Angel taught the children to pray and he prayed with them – if we would be aware of the presence of the angels at each Mass, their constant praise and adoration before each tabernacle, their immense reverence and love towards their heavenly Queen, our spiritual life would immediately change, because they would create the proper atmosphere in which our souls would open themselves towards God.
- THE MAJESTY OF GOD:
This great majestic Angel, what will he say to the children, how will he behave? He kneels down on the earth and bows his forehead to the ground, to pray to God. If one angel is already such a majesty that the children can hardly breathe in his presence, what do we say, if billions of angels together fall on the ground before GOD’S MAJESTY?! “All the angels stood around the throne, they fell before the throne on their faces and worshipped God” (Apoc. 7,11).
And what is the great beginning of FATIMA? A prayer!
And how begins this prayer? “OH MY GOD!”
– Lost truth about God’s infinite majesty and greatness. Infinite Ocean! Creation is nothing before Him.
– This means for us that the beginning and the end, the unum necessarium, the center of the world and of our life, are not we ourselves, but GOD: Oh my God!
– And all creatures before Him are dust. Therefore, the prostration, the genuflection – visible signs that we recognize the truth and appreciate God’s domination and our submission: You are the beginning and the end, the principle and the goal, the foundation and the top. I am just nothing: I can exist only because I am from You, in You, for You!
- ESSENTIAL VIRTUES: FAITH, HOPE, LOVE – ESSENCE OF OUR LIFE!
The prayer continues to put us in relation to God. If God is all, then it is of utmost importance that we have the right attitude towards Him. And this is: “I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love you!”
I believe, I accept the invisible world of God, I am more convinced of what You reveal to me, than the visible world which surrounds me. I believe – I accept the reality of God; my eyes open itself to the truth and the only true life – God’s being and action.
Adoration is the immediate reaction to God’s revelation. If I understand through faith that God is my all, and I am completely dependent on Him, then I must show it.
Adoration is the recognition that God is my first Principle and my last End, my All. And the true appreciation of myself: I am completely dependent on You, I belong to You.
Hope is the desire to fulfill God’s will, the desire to reach God.
Whoever has seen God’s greatness, happiness, and love, cannot but long after such an infinite joy. But hope is also the trust in God’s promises. We can only hope and desire eternal bliss because God invites us to such a life to be His own children, and because He has prepared us a place in Heaven.
Love is a union of hearts: it is the perfect answer to God’s love which created and saved us, and which wants to give us a part in His own divine life. It is the summit of our life, the most noble and the best of what we can do, in fact the only valuable in our life.
“At the evening of our life we will be judged about how much we loved,” say Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus and Saint John of the Cross.
- MYSTERY OF SIN – NECESSITY OF REPARATION
“I ask pardon for those who do not believe …” It is extremely interesting and important that immediately after the description of the essence of our life (our relationship to God), the Angel teaches the children about the contrary, the negation of God’s reality: sin.
So from the very beginning of Fatima appears another theme which is completely forgotten today: that the history of the world and of man is a fight between two contradicting powers: The Kingdom of God and the tyranny of the devil, “Yes” to God and “No” to God (do NOT believe, adore, hope and love).
It would be the worst of all illusions if we imagine a life in a “brave new world, a paradise on earth” and imagine that we will all be together in universal friendship and love.
No – there is war between “Yes” and “No” towards the true God, and only those who remain in the attitude of “Yes” until the end will be saved according to the clearest declarations of Our Lord Himself.
But what shall be our attitude to those who believe in the enemies of God, towards the followers of the “non serviam” of Lucifer? Hatred? Indifference? Anger? Unfortunately, this is so often our reaction towards the evil which surrounds us.
The Angel teaches another language: “I ask pardon for those…” This little sentence must be meditated on again and again:
Firstly, it is the very act of contrition and penance: ask for forgiveness.
The first act of love of a sinner is to repent from his sins and to ask pardon. As we are all sinners, we all have to ask pardon.
Who are “those who do not believe?”
Not only the others, but I also belong to “those”. How many times in my life is there lack of faith, of submission (adoration), of trust in God, of true desires, of love towards God and our neighbor! The fact that I find myself now in the “light” is not thanks to my skill and generosity, but only thanks to the infinite mercy of God.
Therefore, I unite myself with all those, who are now what I have been once (may be not long ago), to ask for forgiveness! This solidarity is a true act of love of our neighbor, as true love want for them “all the best”, and the first best is the “forgiveness of sins”, because without this one cannot be saved.
Secondly, this prayer shows what the real supreme good and the real supreme evil is.
If in the very beginning of Fatima the word “I ask pardon” appears, then we understand how horrible it is “not to believe… not to love God”. And one of the most important tasks of our lives will be to be concerned about this, which is what the following apparitions of the Angel will confirm.