Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Fr. Francis)
“The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold” (Ps 45:10). On today’s Solemnity we celebrate one of Mary’s greatest privileges: her Assumption into Heaven, which was solemnly defined as a dogma of the Church by Pope Pius XII in 1950. And we can see both the truth and fittingness of this event when we think of Mary’s life and her place in the history of salvation. It was fitting that she who was conceived without sin would be assumed, body and soul, into eternal life. It was fitting that her body, which bore the savior of the world, the Son of God Himself, should suffer no corruption after the end of her life on earth. It was fitting and is fitting that the Mother of God should have the most privileged destiny of all human persons, being placed next to God Himself, so that she could protect us and intercede for us.
Apart from these theological reflections, let us simply be glad for the great honor given to our Mother. Just as if our mother on earth would receive some great award or privilege in her life . . . and the whole family rejoices…we should feel the same about Mary today. We’re very glad for her as a human being, and for her place above all the angels and saints, and we give glory and thanks to God for having created such a marvelous creature, and given her so much grace.
The Book of Revelation gives this famous description of her in today’s reading: “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1). Many Fathers of the Church and other writers see the woman as symbolic of the Church herself: for the Church herself is the Mother of the people of God, and brings forth salvation for every human being. But Church will always be in travail as she generates her children throughout time and the dragon, the evil one, constantly pursues her and tries to devour her child. (It is something that we can see throughout history, and continues to see to this day.) The image also represents Mary who is the Mother of the Church and the Mother of Christ, who is the Child that she brings forth into the world, and whom the devil will constantly try to destroy, along with his people.
This is such a rich image that we could spend the rest of our lives trying to appreciate it. It has inspired many prayers and commentaries over the centuries, but we see it manifested in one particular event in Mexico in 1531, which has been approved by the Church for our devotion. In that year, on a hill outside of Mexico City, the Queen of Heaven left her image impressed on the simple tilma (cloak) of St. Juan Diego, as a sign of her presence and her true identity. This apparition brought so much grace and devotion that it opened the way for millions to convert to the Catholic faith in Mexico. That image on Juan Diego’s cloak, which science has been unable to explain, is the exact reproduction of the mysterious woman described in the book of Revelation: the woman clothed with the sun, the moon at her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head.
As you all know, this is the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas which of course include both the United States and Canada.
In the light of all this history, and many things which we ourselves could add from our personal experiences, we can well understand Mary’s humble words to her cousin Elizabeth: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed; the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name” (Lk 1:47–48).
It is even more marvelous for us to remember that this wonderful, exalted woman was a human being like us. She too had her daily work to do, as a mother and spouse in the little village of Nazareth. Like the other women of the village, she too went to the well each day to draw water, she too baked bread, and she too cared for her home with all of the details that family life entails. She too had her joys and sorrows throughout life, even more intense than we can experience, but in a human heart and soul like ours. She too at times could not understand the ways of God, but had to ponder and reflect upon them many times. She too suffered big disappointments from others, especially from her relatives who failed to recognize her Son and his mission on earth. Thus she is very accessible to us in our prayer and dialogue, just as she was to St. Juan Diego whose uncle was very sick, whom she cured.
One further thought on this great Solemnity. Mary, assumed body and soul into Heaven, represents the final goal of us all. We long to be with her and all the saints someday, body and soul, enjoying God forever. At the last judgment, at the resurrection of the dead, our bodies will be resurrected and united to our souls. It will be the new Heaven and the new earth, with Christ the King and Mary as our queen. Our lives will be completely fulfilled, and the Church the bride of Christ will be completely united to her bridegroom in the New Jerusalem. Just like Mary, we will share in the final victory and the eternal Kingdom of her Son, which we heard described today in St. Paul’s magnificent passage today: “For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the first fruits; then, at his coming those who belong to Christ” (1 Cor. 15:22–23).
On this feast day, let us thank the Lord for the gift of the Mother, and let us pray to Mary to help us find the right path every day. Today we join Mary in her happiness. We look forward to the day when we too can share it with her. Today, let us re-examine our devotion to God’s mother, let us try to develop some of her humility, her hope, her acceptance, her love. Amen.
Fr. A. Francis HGN