The "Miracle of the Sun", experienced in Fatima, Portugal on October 13, 1917, has been reflected upon many times and by people far more illustrious than I. Yet, I cannot find anything on the Internet that speaks of a possible metaphorical significance or meaning to the event. Did the Blessed Virgin Mary provide a miracle with a lot of pizzazz, but no special meaning or significance?
We read in the Gospel of Luke (1:29, 2:19, 2:51) that Mary meditated on the significance of events arranged by God. It was part of her nature to do so. Why then would she provide a miracle with no meaning or significance, other than a confirming demonstration of the power of God and to legitimize the witness of the three children who were the only ones blessed with the vision of her? In my humble opinion, such a conclusion is unreflective.
If we are to arrive at an estimate of meaning, we must begin by examining what was seen by witnesses to the event. There is a brief summary in the Wikipedia article as follows:
- According to many witnesses, after a period of rain, the dark clouds broke and the sun appeared as an opaque, spinning disc in the sky.
- It was said to be significantly duller than normal, and to cast multicolored lights across the landscape, the people, and the surrounding clouds.
- The sun was then reported to have careened towards the earth before zig-zagging back to its normal position.
Although subsequent, related events are also relevant, let's begin with these points. We may note, too, in passing, that there were other, distinct, experiences, and not everyone saw the same characteristic features or sequences.
The use of the term "opaque" is very curious, here, meaning, as it does, Webster's online dictionary defines it as "blocking the passage of radiant energy and especially light." Given that the sun is, itself, a tremendous source of radiant energy, visible light in particular, how does it make sense that "the sun" was seen as opaque? It seems to me that this is the first clue to a metaphor.
If we accept Jesus' claim that he is "the light of the world", then an opaque sun seems to be an image of a false light that blocks the true light. Given that one of the major messages, if not the major message, of Fatima was a warning about the coming darkness in the world typified by the teaching of Karl Marx and his followers, beginning with the October Revolution in Russia, the message seems aptly summarized by "an opaque light".
It was seen as a spinning disk. That could typify the passage of time, such as day/night/day or the recurring seasons (an effect of the earth's tilt in relation to its elliptical orbit around the sun, as well as the orbit's ellipticity, itself). This suggests that the blocking of the true light would extend over some time. The reported message was that this time period was about a century. The start and the end of this period of blockage, however, is a bit ambiguous, since, although the October Revolution was over fairly quickly, and the royal family was executed soon thereafter, there was a subsequent Russian Civil War that took some years to settle. Furthermore, the warning that these errors of thought would spread throughout the world was fulfilled, notably beginning with the founding of the Communist Party in China in 1921.
It should be obvious that this century of ignorance is by no means over and done with, in spite of the obvious fact that no Communist regime has proven to have staying power. Notably, Communist China is a mixture of Communism and Capitalism, and its stability remains a serious question. Nevertheless, the hope of a Communist regime "done right" remains, influencing young, naive minds everywhere in the world.
This "disk of the sun", as the testimony notes, appeared "significantly duller than normal" and "cast multicolored lights across the landscape, the people and the surrounding clouds:" This suggests great confusion in political thought, with a variety of ideologies competing for attention, as well as, perhaps, determined efforts of governments and political movements to obscure the truth with "bright phrases". This, surely, typifies 20th and 21st century politics throughout the world, yet it surely cannot be said to be unique to our time! "Duller than normal" merely suggests an increase in obscurity, perhaps (especially combined with "multicolored lights") an apt characterization of postmodernism.
The ending of this sequence is described as the sun careening "towards the earth before zig-zagging back to its normal position." This suggests a global disaster averted, with political thinking "zig-zagging back to its normal position." That may be a sign of hope, but, of course, there can be no question our difficulties have not ended and there are many signs of a coming collapse.
The Wikipedia article goes on to relate that…
- Witnesses reported that their previously wet clothes became "suddenly and completely dry, as well as the wet and muddy ground that had been previously soaked because of the rain that had been falling".
- Not all witnesses reported seeing the sun "dance".
- Some people only saw the radiant colors, and others, including some believers, saw nothing at all.
Point 1 suggests that the rain, itself, had some significance in the meaning of the event. If so, it may be appropriate to connect this with Revelation 12:15,16.
The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river which the dragon had poured from his mouth. [RSV]
In this connection, the verses from Revelation could have a variety of meanings. One particularly relevant meaning suggests itself in the phrase "the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river," namely, the river of lies died with the passing of the people that spread them. If that's the case, we have a long way to go before this nonsense is truly over. Of course, a more literal interpretation may be suggested by Numbers 16:32, etc.
Points 2 and 3 surely suggest a difference in perceptions, or, more appropriately perhaps, a difference in the level of perceptions. The more perceptive among us may notice the "zig-zag" or chaos of "progressive" thought while others do not, and there may be many who fail to notice anything at all. The very fact that there were such difference is certainly noteworthy, and has lead many to speculate that the phenomenon was not physical at all, but merely psychological. Point 1, however, argues against that "safe" conclusion.
I freely acknowledge that the above is a matter of speculation. Nevertheless, it strikes me as fairly clear that some meaning of the event is begging to be received and understood.