The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today’s readings

Today we gather to celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary body and soul into heaven, to reign with her Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. We believe that our Lord did not want any taint of death to corrupt his Blessed Mother, who was conceived without sin. What is important for us to see in this feast is that it proclaims, with all joy and great solemnity, that what happened to Mary can absolutely happen for us who believe. We too have the promise of eternal life in heaven, where death and sin and pain will no longer have power over us. Because Christ caught his Blessed Mother back up into his life in heaven, we know that we too can be caught up with his life in heaven. On that great day, death, the last enemy, will be completely destroyed, as St. Paul tells us today.

Mary’s life was a prophecy for us. Like Mary, we are called to a specific vocation to do God’s work in the world. We are called to make sacrifices so that God’s work can be accomplished in us and through us. We can be joyful because God is at work in us. We are called to humility that lets God’s love for others shine through our lives. We are called to lives of faith that translate into action on behalf of others, a faith that leads God’s people to salvation.

All of that is a pretty tall order. Disciples are called to live saintly lives so that they can be caught up in the life of God, reign with him in God’s Kingdom, and one day live forever with him in heaven. Obviously, we can never accomplish all of that great calling on our own. To get there, we receive the gift of grace, and we count on the intercession of the saints, especially the Blessed Virgin, who is Queen of heaven and earth. Depending on her intercession, we set forth to accomplish great things for the Lord, and one day, we hope to share in the glory that Mary has already received.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today’s readings

Today we gather to celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary body and soul into heaven, to reign with her Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  We believe that our Lord did not want any taint of death to corrupt his Blessed Mother, who was conceived without sin.  What is important for us to see in this feast is that it proclaims, with all joy and great solemnity, that what happened to Mary can absolutely happen for us who believe.  We too have the promise of eternal life in heaven, where death and sin and pain will no longer have power over us.  Because Christ caught his Blessed Mother back up into his life in heaven, we know that we too can be caught up with his life in heaven.  On that great day, death, the last enemy, will be completely destroyed, as St. Paul tells us today.

Mary’s life was a prophecy for us.  Like Mary, we are called to a specific vocation to do God’s work in the world.  We are called to make sacrifices so that God’s work can be accomplished in us and through us.  We can be joyful because God is at work in us.  We are called to humility that lets God’s love for others shine through our lives.  We are called to lives of faith that translate into action on behalf of others, a faith that leads God’s people to salvation.  And one day, we hope to share in the glory that Mary has already received in the kingdom of God.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today’s readings

The tradition of the Assumption of Mary dates back to the very earliest days of the Church, all the way back to the days of the apostles.  The Council of Chalcedon in 451 tells us that, after Mary’s death, the apostles opened the tomb, finding it empty, and concluded that she had been taken bodily into heaven.  The tradition was spoken about by the various fathers of the Church, and in the eighth century, St. John Damascene wrote, “Although the body was duly buried, it did not remain in the state of death, neither was it dissolved by decay… You were transferred to your heavenly home, O Lady, Queen and Mother of God in truth.”   The current celebration of Mary’s Assumption has taken place since 1950, when Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of Mary in his encyclical, Munificentissimus Deus, saying: “The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heaven.”

And so we have gathered here this evening to celebrate the life of Mary, Mother of God, the first of the disciples of Jesus her son.  What is important for us to see in this feast is that it proclaims with all the joy the Church can muster that what happened to Mary can and will happen for us who believe.  We too have the promise of eternal life in heaven, where death and sin and pain will no longer have power over us. Because Christ caught his Blessed Mother back up into his life in heaven, we know that we too can be caught up with his life in heaven.  On that great day, death, the last enemy, will be completely destroyed, as St. Paul tells us today.

Mary’s life wasn’t always easy, but Mary’s life was redeemed.  That is good news for us who have difficult lives or find it hard to live our faith.  There are those among us too who have unplanned pregnancies.  There are those among us whose children go in directions that put them in danger.  There are those among us who have to watch a child die.  But because Mary suffered these sorrows too, and yet was exalted, we can hope for the day when that which she was given and which we have been promised will surely be ours.

Mary’s life was a prophecy for us.  Like Mary, we are called to a specific vocation to do God’s work in the world.  We are called to make sacrifices so that God’s work can be accomplished in us and through us.  We can be joyful because God is at work in us.  We are called to humility that lets God’s love for others shine through our lives.  We are called to lives of faith that translate into action on behalf of others, a faith that leads God’s people to salvation.  And one day, we hope to share in the glory that Mary has already received in the kingdom of God.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today’s readings

The tradition of the Assumption of Mary dates back to the very earliest days of the Church, all the way back to the days of the apostles. It was known that Mary had “fallen asleep” and that there is a “Tomb of Mary” close toMountZion, where the early Christian community had lived. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 tells us that, after Mary’s death, the apostles opened the tomb, finding it empty, and concluded that she had been taken bodily into heaven. The tradition was spoken about by the various fathers of the Church, and in the eighth century, St. John Damascene wrote, “Although the body was duly buried, it did not remain in the state of death, neither was it dissolved by decay… You were transferred to your heavenly home, O Lady, Queen and Mother of God in truth.” The current celebration of Mary’s Assumption has taken place since 1950, when Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of Mary in his encyclical, Munificentissimus Deus, saying: “The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heaven.”

And so we have gathered here this morning to celebrate the life of Mary, Mother of God, the first of the disciples of Jesus her son.  And there is plenty to celebrate in her life.  We who would be Jesus’ disciples too, can learn much from the way she lived her discipleship.  We can see in her life, I think, at least three qualities of discipleship.  The first is joy.  She is one who not only allowed something incredibly unbelievable to be done in her, but allowed it with great joy. That she did this with joy tells us something very important about who she was. Teilhard de Chardin wrote, “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.” Those who live with joy, true joy, do so because God is at work in them and God is at work through them. Mary knew this from the moment the angel came to her.

The second quality we see in Mary’s prayer is humility. She knew this wasn’t about her; this was about what God was doing in her and through her. It wasn’t she that did great things, no, “the Almighty has done great things for me,” she tells us, “and holy is his Name!”  The third quality is faith: Mary’s simple faith allowed her to say “yes” to God’s will and made possible the salvation of the world.  Because of that faith, she had a bond with our Savior beyond anything we could ever hope for.  Indeed without Mary’s fiat, her great leap of faith, the salvation of humanity may have gone quite poorly.

What is important for us to see in this feast, though, is that it proclaims with all the joy the Church can muster that what happened to Mary can and will happen for us who believe. We too have the promise of eternal life in heaven, where death and sin and pain will no longer have power over us. Because Christ caught his Blessed Mother back up into his life in heaven, we know that we too can be caught up with his life in heaven. On that great day, death, the last enemy, will be completely destroyed, asSt. Paultells us today.

 

Mary’s life wasn’t always easy, but Mary’s life was redeemed. That is good news for us who have difficult lives or find it hard to live our faith.  There are those among us too who have unplanned pregnancies.  There are those among us whose children go in directions that put them in danger.  There are those among us who have to watch a child die.  But because Mary suffered these sorrows too, and yet was exalted, we can hope for the day when that which she was given and which we have been promised will surely be ours.

Mary’s life was a prophecy for us.  Like Mary, we are called to a specific vocation to do God’s work in the world.  We too are called to make sacrifices so that God’s work can be accomplished in us and through us.  We too can be joyful because God is at work in us.  We too are called to humility that let’s God’s love for others shine through our lives.  We too are called to lives of faith that translate into action on behalf of others, a faith that leads God’s people to salvation.  And we too, one day, hope to share in the glory that Mary has already received in the kingdom of God.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

The Vigil of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today’s readings

One of the most important things we can know about the Blessed Virgin Mary is summed up in the simple statement: “As Mary goes, so goes the Church.”  Mary is the Mother of the Church, and so, through her intercession, we hope to follow the path she followed.  We certainly celebrate and hope to emulate her faith; that faith that allowed her to be God’s instrument in bringing salvation to the whole world.  One simple “yes,” one fiat forever changed the world and the destiny of all people.  We also celebrate and choose to emulate her discipleship; that dedication to Christ that went beyond merely being his mother and encompassed being one who “hears the word of God and observes it” as Jesus extols in today’s Gospel reading.  And finally, we hope to share the heavenly glory that she enjoys even now, even though our sinfulness will not keep us from tasting death in the process.

Today we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The Assumption is an event for which we have no Scriptural reference.  Instead, the doctrine of the Assumption is born out of the enduring Tradition of the Church, beginning in the early Church, encompassing the teaching of the Fathers of the Church, and culminating in the doctrinal declaration of Venerable Pope Pius XII.  We know, by the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, that the Blessed Virgin Mary was born without taint of sin.  Today’s second reading reminds us that the sting of sin is death, and so it follows then that Mary would not undergo the corruption of bodily decay.

In the early Church, it was known that Mary had “fallen asleep” and there is a “Tomb of Mary” close toMountZion, where the early Christian community had lived.  The Council of Chalcedon in 451 tells us that, after Mary’s death, the apostles opened the tomb, finding it empty, and concluded that she had been taken bodily into heaven.  The tradition was spoken about by the various fathers of the Church, and in the eighth century, St. John Damascene wrote, “Although the body was duly buried, it did not remain in the state of death, neither was it dissolved by decay. . . . You were transferred to your heavenly home, O Lady, Queen and Mother of God in truth.”  The current celebration of Mary’s Assumption has taken place since 1950, when Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of Mary in his encyclical, Munificentissimus Deus, saying: “By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”

We know that Mary’s life was not an easy one, and that makes her faith all the more beautiful.  The grace she received in the Immaculate Conception allowed her to be a model for all of us and for the Church.  The fruit of her grace began to unfold with the Annunciation: when the angel Gabriel brought her God’s call to be the Mother of God.  Mary was a young girl with all the concerns of a young girl in that time and place. She was as yet unmarried, yet faithfully embraced God’s call, strange and unfathomable though it must have been to her. Mary’s simple faith allowed her to say “yes” to God’s will and made possible the salvation of the world.

Because of that faith, she had a bond with our Savior beyond anything we could ever hope for. And so we truly believe that Jesus, risen from the dead and now ascended into heaven, prepared a place for his mother and caught her back up into his life. She was assumed body and soul into heaven, and the corruption of death was not allowed to touch the one whose purity made possible the birth of the Savior. As St. John Damascene also said, “It was necessary that she who had preserved her virginity inviolate in childbirth should also have her body kept free from all corruption after death.”

What is important for us to see in this feast, though, is that it proclaims with all the joy the Church can muster that what happened to Mary can and will happen for us who believe. We too have the promise of eternal life in heaven, where death and sin and pain will no longer have power over us. Because Christ caught his Blessed Mother back up into his life in heaven, we know that we too can be caught up with his life in heaven. On that great day, death will completely lose its nasty sting, asSt. Paultells us today.

Mary’s life wasn’t always easy, but Mary’s life was redeemed.  That is good news for us who have difficult lives or find it hard to live our faith.  There are those among us too who have unplanned pregnancies.  There are those among us whose children go in directions that put them in danger.  There are those among us who have to watch a child die.  But because Mary suffered these sorrows too, and yet was exalted, we can hope for the day when that which she was given and which we have been promised will surely be ours.

As I’ve reflected on this feast today, what kept coming to me was the fourth Commandment: “Honor your father and your mother.”  Jesus showed us the way to do that by honoring his own mother with grace that she would never know death.  We aren’t able to do that, of course, but we can certainly call our mother or spend time with her, or for those whose mothers have passed, pray for her.  And may we all find in Mary our Mother the example of faith that will lead us to everlasting communion with her Son.

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God:
that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today’s readings

The tradition of the Assumption of Mary dates back to the very earliest days of the Church, all the way back to the days of the apostles. It was known that Mary had “fallen asleep” and that there is a “Tomb of Mary” close to Mount Zion, where the early Christian community had lived. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 tells us that, after Mary’s death, the apostles opened the tomb, finding it empty, and concluded that she had been taken bodily into heaven. The tradition was spoken about by the various fathers of the Church, and in the eighth century, St. John Damascene wrote, “Although the body was duly buried, it did not remain in the state of death, neither was it dissolved by decay . . . . You were transferred to your heavenly home, O Lady, Queen and Mother of God in truth.” The current celebration of Mary’s Assumption has taken place since 1950, when Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of Mary in his encyclical, Munificentissimus Deus, saying: “The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heaven.”

And so we have gathered here this morning to celebrate the life of Mary, Mother of God, the first of the disciples of Jesus her son.  And there is plenty to celebrate in her life.  We who would be Jesus’ disciples too, can learn much from the way she lived her discipleship.  We can see in her life, I think, at least three qualities of discipleship.  The first is joy.  She is one who not only allowed something incredibly unbelievable to be done in her, but allowed it with great joy. That she did this with joy tells us something very important about who she was. Teilhard de Chardin wrote, “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.” Those who live with joy, true joy, do so because God is at work in them and God is at work through them. Mary knew this from the moment the angel came to her.

The second quality we see in Mary’s prayer is humility. She knew this wasn’t about her; this was about what God was doing in her and through her. It wasn’t she that did great things, no, “the Almighty has done great things for me,” she tells us, “and holy is his Name!”  The third quality is faith: Mary’s simple faith allowed her to say “yes” to God’s will and made possible the salvation of the world.  Because of that faith, she had a bond with our Savior beyond anything we could ever hope for.  Indeed without Mary’s fiat, her great leap of faith, the salvation of humanity may have gone quite poorly.

What is important for us to see in this feast, though, is that it proclaims with all the joy the Church can muster that what happened to Mary can and will happen for us who believe. We too have the promise of eternal life in heaven, where death and sin and pain will no longer have power over us. Because Christ caught his Blessed Mother back up into his life in heaven, we know that we too can be caught up with his life in heaven. On that great day, death, the last enemy, will be completely destroyed, as St. Paul tells us today.

Mary’s life wasn’t always easy, but Mary’s life was redeemed. And that is good news for us who have difficult lives or find it hard to live our faith. Because there are those among us too who have unplanned pregnancies. There are those among us whose children go in directions that put them in danger. There are those among us who have to watch a child die. But because Mary suffered these sorrows too, and yet was exalted, we can hope for the day when that which she was given and which we have been promised will surely be ours.

Mary’s life was a prophecy for us.  Like Mary, we are called to a specific vocation to do God’s work in the world.  We too are called to make sacrifices so that God’s work can be accomplished in us and through us.  We too can be joyful because God is at work in us.  We too are called to humility that lets God’s love for humanity shine through our lives.  We too are called to lives of faith that translate into action on behalf of others, a faith that leads God’s people to salvation.  And we too, one day, will share in the glory that Mary has already received in the kingdom of God.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today’s readings

In every age of the world, people have needed hope.  Because in every age of the world, there has been unbelievable hardship.  There has always been war, and disease, and poverty, and oppression, and alienation, and all the rest.  There has always been sin, and broken relationships, and impure desires and that feeling of emptiness that hardens our hearts.  Evil has run rampant from the fall of humanity and ever onward.  And the weight of all of that could be crushing – if we didn’t have hope.

And I don’t need to be abstract about this.  All we have to do is turn on the news or pick up a newspaper and see car bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan; child soldiers killing in Sudan; third world people suffering with disease who lack medicines that can help them; an oil spill that polluted the Gulf of Mexico, maybe for years to come; and you could probably name still more.  In our own lives we have the illness and death of loved ones; family members alienating one another; loss of employment; and that’s just to name a few.  There’s no way we could live with all that – if we didn’t have hope.

And I don’t mean hope in the Pollyanna sense.  I’m not going to tell you, “don’t worry – everything will work out all right” because, honestly, some things won’t.  The hope that I think we can find in today’s Liturgy is the theological virtue that reminds us that this is not all there is; this is not as good as it gets.  Our readings remind us that there has been and still is incredible evil in this world, but evil doesn’t get the final say – not for Jesus, not for Mary, and not for us.  One look at the way things work in our world and in our lives could convince us that this has all been an unbelievable failure – if we didn’t have hope.

The tradition of the Assumption of Mary dates back to the very earliest days of the Church, all the way back to the days of the apostles. It was known that Mary had “fallen asleep” and that there is a “Tomb of Mary” close to Mount Zion, where the early Christian community had lived. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 tells us that, after Mary’s death, the apostles opened the tomb, finding it empty, and concluded that she had been taken bodily into heaven. The tradition was spoken about by the various fathers of the Church, and in the eighth century, St. John Damascene wrote, “Although the body was duly buried, it did not remain in the state of death, neither was it dissolved by decay . . . . You were transferred to your heavenly home, O Lady, Queen and Mother of God in truth.” The current celebration of Mary’s Assumption has taken place since 1950, when Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of Mary in his encyclical, Munificentissimus Deus, saying: “The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heaven.”[1]

The hope that we find in the doctrine of the Assumption is summed up in the Preface to today’s Eucharistic Prayer, which I will sing in a few minutes.  Listen to the beautiful words of that prayer:

Today the virgin Mother of God was taken up into heaven
to be the beginning and the pattern of the Church in its perfection,
and a sign of hope and comfort for your people on their pilgrim way.

The Church knows well that our pilgrim way would be filled with evil.  But the Church courageously believes that this world’s experience isn’t the beginning and end of our existence: we have much to look forward to in the life to come.  Our Savior himself foretold as much in John’s gospel when he said, “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)  This, brothers and sisters in Christ, is our hope, and this is the hope that we celebrate today.

The reason the Church reveres Mary as much as she does is because Mary’s life is the icon of the Church.  What is important for us to see in this feast is that it proclaims with all the joy the Church can muster that what happened to Mary can and will happen for us who believe. We too have the promise of eternal life in heaven, where death and sin and pain will no longer have power over us. Because Christ caught his Blessed Mother back up into his life in heaven, we know that we too can be caught up with his life in heaven. On that great day, death, the last enemy, will be completely destroyed, as St. Paul tells us today.  That is our hope: our unbelievably gracious, completely unmerited, lovingly-bestowed hope.

Mary’s life wasn’t always easy, but Mary’s life was redeemed. That is good news for us who have difficult lives or fine it hard to live our faith. Because there are those among us too who have unplanned pregnancies. There are those among us whose children go in directions that put them in danger. There are those among us who have to watch a child die. But because Mary suffered these sorrows too, and yet was exalted, we can hope for the day when that which she was given and which we have been promised will surely be ours.  We can and do hope in this salvation every day of our lives.  It’s what makes our lives livable; it’s what gives us the strength to keep on keepin’ on in the midst of so much difficulty.

Today’s readings can seem pretty fantastic, in the sense that we don’t know what to believe about them.  The reading from revelation has a dragon sweeping a third of the stars from the sky, and a child being caught up to heaven.  But really, I don’t think that’s too hard to grasp.  We have all been through things in our lives when it felt like a third of the stars had fallen out of the sky.  There is that evil dragon that seeks us out and wants to devour the hope that we have, but the child of that hope has been taken up to heaven, and we can go there one day too, if we believe, and repent, and cling to Christ who is our hope.

Mary’s song of praise in today’s gospel reading, which the Church prays every evening in Vespers, echoes the hope we have in this feast of the Assumption:

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.

Life is hard.  It always has been, and probably always will be.  But this life is not all there is.  As we walk through this life on our pilgrim way to God’s kingdom, we walk always in the presence of our God who sees us, who notices our pain and sorrow, who grieves with us and laughs with us, who never lets go of us, and who gives us hope beyond anything we deserve.  Where Mary has gone, we hope to follow.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.


[1] http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/AOFMARY.HTM

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today’s readings

“Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

Those words, spoken by St. Elizabeth to Mary, summarize what is so important about celebrating the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary’s faith, to me, is remarkable. She could never have known where doing the Lord’s will would take her. An unplanned pregnancy, watching opposition toward her son grow, seeing him die on the cross. How could she have said yes to all of that? But she didn’t have to say yes to that, she had to say yes to God, to God in whose promises she trusted with all her heart.

This humble girl, with great faith, was raised on this day to the heights of heaven that we can yet hope for. Just like Mary, a lot of us have to live lives that are imperfect in some ways. There are those among us who have unplanned pregnancies. There are those among us whose children go in directions that put them in danger. There are those among us who have to watch a child die. But because Mary suffered these sorrows too, and yet was exalted, we can hope for the day when that which she was given and which we have been promised will surely be ours.

What the Assumption means for us is that as Mary has gone to exaltation before us, so we can hope for exaltation on that Great Day. We too are called to believe that what is spoken to us by the Lord will be fulfilled.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.