“Whiter than if he was made of snow”: on the centenary of the apparition of the Angel in Fátima.When, in 1937, Lúcia de Jesus (1907-2005) wrote the memoirs of the extraordinary days that she experienced in her infancy, she clarified some evidence that had already been formally recorded in that distant year 1917, in the pages of an interrogation that had been conducted on the 2nd of November of that year. It is from that description that we know the angel also perceived by Francisco and Jacinta Marto: “a young man of some 14 to 15 years old, whiter than if he was made of snow, whom the sun made transparent as if he was made of crystal and of great beauty”.
The history of Fátima has remained shaped with one of its richest components, perfectly consistent with the discourse that, since the first time it was heard from the mouths of the three children that from shepherds came to be known as seers: God is present in human history. According to the testimony of Lúcia, this maxim is affirmed in Fátima in all cycles of apparitions, as well as in the angelic cycle, which can be portrayed in three seasons: the spring, the summer and the autumn of 1916. Theologians who have discussed this nucleus of the message of Fátima found as the key to the reading of this portico that, according to the writings of Lúcia, preceded the Marian apparitions of 1917, the theme of human recognition of the existence of God to whom worship is owed. The reminder that the Western world had come to the conclusion that it was important to proclaim the death of God contextualises the importance of the message, as a brief, but intense, postcard, conveyed to three children of Serra d’Aire.
The history of religious thought came to acknowledge that, indeed, God was not dead, but rather continued to cohabit with human praxis, the result of multiple “festivals of atonement”, to use the words of the philosopher who solemnly killed God.
The images that Lúcia’s narrative sets are actually a solemn atonement and compose an allegory about the presence of God in human history, from the outset assumed to be the distant God who is worshipped, as the God of peace who guards human history and as the nourishing God who, in liberality, generously satiates the hungry. So can be interpreted the three apparitions in which, respectively, the Angel, prostrated on the ground, invites for worship, announces himself custodian of the community and calls himself the Angel of Peace, becoming the bearer of the bread and wine that Christ’s followers take as true nourishment because it is transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ.
Unlike the location of the Marian apparitions which gave rise to the construction of a sanctuary consisting of equipment prepared to accommodate the large assemblies of pilgrims who flock there, the places where the Angel appeared – Loca do Cabeço and Poço do Arneiro – also tell us about a barely constructed landscape, such as a locus amoenus, only emphasised by the presence of memorial art consisting of groups of sculptures: at Loca, surrounded by a fence erected by Domingos Soares Branco, the sculpted set Maria Amélia Carvalheira da Silva, and, at Poço, the pieces signed by Irene Vilar.
Myriads of pilgrims have flocked to these places in search of that message which they believe valid for their everyday acts.
Marco Daniel Duarte Director of Studies and Dissemination of the Fátima Shrine
Issue Date: 02.05.2016 Designer: Atelier Design&etc Printer: INCM Process: Offset Colours: 4 Colours Size: Stamp: 40 x 30,6 mm Souvenir sheet: 125 x 95 mm Values: €0.80