Public and Private Revelation

Revelation Sites

The Visitation

The Visitation
by Fra Angelico1

Public and private revelation
differ in degree and in essence.

Public Revelation at a Glance

  1. Refers to the revealing action of God directed to humanity as a whole.
  2. It finds its literary expression in the Old and New Testaments where God gradually made himself known to men, to the point of becoming man himself.
  3. It is not a matter of intellectual communication, or the transmission of knowledge, but a life-giving process where God meets man.
  4. Public revelation is valid for all time. It reached its fulfilment in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It came to an end with the fulfilment of the mystery of Christ.
  5. 'In giving us his Son, his only Word, ... He [God] spoke everything to us at once'
  6. Even though public revelation is already complete, it has not been made fully explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries" (CCC 66)
  7. The Church is bound to progress in understanding it is illustrated in the farewell discourse of the Lord when he says: "I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority... He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you" (Jn 16:12-14).
  8. The Spirit acts as a guide who discloses a knowledge previously unreachable
  9. The Second Vatican Council notes three essential ways in which the Spirit guides in the Church
    1. through the meditation and study of the faithful,
    2. through the deep understanding which comes from spiritual experience,
    3. and through the preaching of those who, in the succession of the episcopate, have received the sure charism of truth.1

The Annunciation


The Annunciation
by Fra Angelico2

Private Revelation at a Glance

  1. Private revelation refers to all the visions and revelations which have taken place since the completion of the New Testament [The work of Christ and the testimony of the Apostles].
  2. Its purpose is not to complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history.
  3. Private revelation shows its credibility precisely by leading me back to the definitive public Revelation
  4. Ecclesiastical approval of a private revelation has three elements:
    1. the message contains nothing contrary to faith or morals;
    2. it is lawful to make it public;
    3. and the faithful are authorized to accept it with prudence.
  5. Such a message can be a genuine help in understanding the Gospel and living it better at a particular moment in time; therefore it should not be disregarded ... In every age the Church has received the charism of prophecy, which must be scrutinized but not scorned.
  6. The private revelations approved by the Church ... help us to understand the signs of the times and to respond to them rightly in faith.
  7. The figurative language of the visions is symbolic. In this regard, Cardinal Sodano stated: "[they] do not describe photographically the details of future events, but synthesize and compress against a single background facts which extend through time in an unspecified succession and duration.
  8. This compression of time and place in a single image is typical of such visions.
  9. Not every element of the vision has to have a specific historical sense. It is the vision as a whole that matters ... The centre is found where the vision becomes a summons and a guide to the will of God.1



See Tabs: (Resources / Website / Image Resources) for common image sources.