Saturday, August 15, 2009

Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This dogma of the Assumption is predicated upon centuries of faith and conviction that Mary, Christ's Blessed Mother, was assumed body and soul into heaven. The Eastern Rite churches have always celebrated the Dormition – the “Falling Asleep” of the Blessed Virgin.

Christians throughout the centuries show their reverence for what Christ has done through the saints by venerating their relics. We hear of the veneration of relics of the great saints. Even today we venerate relics. But there is no mention of the veneration of the bodily relics of the Blessed Virgin – because there are none. Jesus Christ, her Son, has taken her up to heaven.

We see how intimately her life has been entwined with her Son's. From her “fiat” to the angel – her “yes” to bring the Son of God into the world, to her presence at Jesus' first miracle, or sign, at the Wedding Feast at Cana, where she told the servants – and she tells us today - “Do whatever He tells you!”, to her presence at His itinerant preaching where He teaches the crowd, “Those who do the will of my Father are brother, sister and mother to me” (and Mary did this!), to her presence to her Son as He hung on the Cross, where He gave His Mother to the apostle John – just as He gives her to the Church.

So, is it not fitting that if she shared in the life and sufferings of her Son, she would also share in His glorious resurrection? In our First Reading we hear how a great sign appeared in heaven: the Ark of the Covenant. That would have excited all the Jews who heard it because they hadn't seen the Ark in so many generations, and to see its glory again . . . The very next verse: “A woman, clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet and crowned with 12 stars.” Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant: Just as the Ark held the Word of God engraved on stone, so Mary held the Word of God engraved in Flesh. Just as the Ark held the manna that kept the Israelites alive in the desert for a limited time, so Mary holds the Bread of Life that gives life to the world for all eternity.

In the culmination of our Salvation in Jesus Christ, Mary came first. Mary was the first to preemptively enjoy the fruits of Christ's passion which saves us from sin, for she was conceived without the stain of sin. And so after Jesus' resurrection and ascension into heaven, so Mary receives the privilege of being assumed into heaven by the glory and power of her Son. If we are baptized into Christ Jesus – into His life, death and resurrection – we too have the opportunity to follow Him also into His glorification. The assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary gives us the hope and assurance that her Son Jesus Christ, will fulfill His promise to all of us that He will be with us always until the end of the age.

We live in very contentious times, full of internal struggles, full of fear of our future. We are in desperate need of hope. We are in desperate need of someone to turn to whom we can trust. Jesus and His Mother are those we can trust! The dogma of the Assumption was promulgated at a time of great fear and uncertainty as well. It was the end of the Second World War, which ushered in the age of nuclear war; while the Nazis were defeated the communists took their place. The people needed a sign of hope.

Mary is our sign of hope because Jesus is our Hope.

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