The Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Year C)
First Reading: Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 Gospel Reading: Luke 1:39-56
“THE QUEEN STANDS AT YOUR RIGHT HAND, ARRAYED IN GOLD!”
A Protestant clergyman was once visiting an orphanage, and the children were each reciting their prayers for him to hear. One little boy who had previously been to a Catholic school, after finishing the 'Our Father,' began the 'Hail Mary.'
“No, no!” the clergyman vehemently protested. “We don't want to hear about her – go on to the 'Creed.'”
The little boy did so, but stopped suddenly when he came to 'born of the ….' and said, “Here she comes again – what shall I do now, sir?”
Indeed, we cannot have Jesus without Mary – they can never be separated. Today, we solemnly celebrate the feast of “the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.” Because it signifies the Virgin Mary's passing into eternal life, it is the most important of all Marian feasts and is a 'Holy Day of Obligation.' Celebrated every year on August 15, the feast commemorates that at the end of her earthly existence the Virgin Mary was taken up (assumed) body and soul into heaven, before her body could begin to decay - a foretaste of our own bodily resurrection at the end of time. “The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold!”
There is a legend about the Assumption of the Virgin Mary - The tradition holds that Blessed Virgin Mary died in Jerusalem (or Ephesus?) and during the last moments of her earthly life all surviving Apostles were present there except St. Thomas, who was then preaching in India. He then was miraculously brought there and he insisted to see the dead body of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But to everyone's surprise, her tomb was found empty, excepting her clothes.
The Assumption of the Virgin Mary is a 'Dogma.' On November 1, 1950, in his Apostolic Constitution 'Munificentissimus Deus,' Pope Pius XII promulgated as a dogma revealed by God that: “Mary, the immaculate perpetually Virgin Mother of God, after the completion of her earthly life, was assumed, body and soul, into the glory of heaven.” “The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold!”
The dogma of the Assumption of Mary is based, according to the Fathers of the Church, on four arguments:
Firstly, Mary is 'the Immaculate Conception' – she did not incur the general curse of sin and so her body was exempted from the general law of dissolution and immediately assumed into the glory of heaven, in accordance with God’s original plan for mankind.
Secondly, she is 'the Mother of God' – there is likeness to her Son, in body and soul.
Thirdly, her 'perpetual virginity' – her body was preserved in unimpaired virginal integrity.
And fourthly, she is 'co-redemptorist;' i.e. she participated in the redemptive work of Christ; therefore, she enjoys the full fruit of the Redemption, which consists in the glorification of soul and body.
Also, the doctrine of the Assumption says that at the end of her life on earth Mary was assumed, body and soul, into heaven, just as Enoch, Elijah, and perhaps others had been before her. It’s also necessary to keep in mind what the Assumption is not. Some people think Catholics believe Mary 'ascended' into heaven. That’s not correct. Christ, by his own power, ascended into heaven. Mary was 'assumed' or taken up into heaven by God. She didn’t do it under her own power.
Today's First Reading from the Book of Revelation and the Gospel Reading from St. Luke both present Virgin Mary as 'the Ark of the Covenant' of the New Testament:
Now, the First Reading begins with the sentence, “God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.” The ark of the covenant is then compared with a woman who is with child and is clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She gives birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with iron rod, who was caught up to God and his throne and the woman herself flies into the desert where she has a place prepared by God. This woman for sure symbolizes the Virgin Mary, who is the ark of the new covenant.
Again, in the Gospel Reading we hear about Mary who now is pregnant, visiting her cousin Elizabeth who is also pregnant, soon after the Annunciation, and there is an agreeing parallelism with the event mentioned in the 2nd Book of Samuel (6:1-23), where King David goes and brings the Ark of the Covenant. In the Gospel we find – (1) John the Baptist leaping out of joy in his mother's womb, (2) Seeing Mary, Elizabeth exclaims, “How can the mother of my Lord come to my house?” and (3) Mary remained with her cousin for three months. Similarly, in 2nd Book of Samuel we see – (1) David dancing out of joy, (2) David also exclaims, “How can the Ark of the Covenant come to my house?” and (3) the Ark of the Covenant was kept in the house of Obededom for three months. Comparing the two events it is evident that the Virgin Mary is the Ark of the Covenant in the New Testament.
Finally, in the Old Testament, the Ark of the covenant contained three things: (1) The two stone tablets received by Moses from God, in which were written the Ten Commandments, (2) Manna, the food the people of Israel received from God during their journey through the desert & (3) Aaron's (the high priest) rod that bloomed. In the New Testament, Mary is the Ark of the Covenant who carried Jesus: (1) whose law of love is encrypted in human hearts, (2) who is the 'Manna' of the NT – the Bread of Life and (3) who is 'Aaron' of the NT– the High Priest.
In the Second Reading of today from the 1st Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, St. Paul speaks about the story of the Fall and Redemption - “For as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ." That is why we call Christ the new Adam. But as soon as we say that, we become aware of a missing link. The story of the Fall is not only the story of Adam but the story of Adam and Eve. If Jesus is the new Adam, who then is the new Eve? Mary is the new Eve. Just as the full story of our Fall cannot be told without Eve, so also the full story of our Redemption cannot be told without Mary. There is a contrasting parallelism between the old Adam & Eve on the one hand and the new Adam & Eve; viz. Jesus & Mary, on the other:
- In the OT, the woman (Eve) was created out of the man (Adam), but in the NT the man (Jesus) is born of the woman (Mary).
- In the OT, the woman (Eve) first disobeyed God and led the man (Adam) to do the same, in the NT the woman (Mary) first said "Yes" to God and raised her son Jesus to do likewise.
- In the OT Adam & Eve had a fine time together disobeying God, but in the NT Jesus & Mary suffered together doing God's will. The sword of sorrow pierced their hearts equally.
- In the OT Adam & Eve shared immediately in the resulting consequences and punishments of the Fall; i.e. sin and death. In the new order, in the same way, both Jesus and Mary share immediately in the resulting consequences and blessings of the Redemption; i. e. the fullness of life with God - Jesus through the Ascension and Mary through the Assumption. “The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold!”
To conclude, the Scripture Readings of today present the Virgin Mary as 'the New Eve' and 'the Ark of the New Covenant,' who through her obedience to God's will, brought forth the Savior to the world and became co-redemtorist by participating in God's saving work; and she was finally rewarded for this by being assumed into heaven.
So, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is a 'DIVINE GIFT' to her, for her holy and immaculate life. It is her 'GLORIFICATION' by God for her humility, her belief, her acceptance, her hope, her love and her self surrender. It is also the hope of our glorification that if we follow her footsteps, then we too will be glorified like her and be there where she and her son Jesus are. Surely, she is there to help us, to intercede for us and to guide us. On this day when we honor our Blessed mother - May our lives magnify the Lord; May our spirits rejoice in God our Savior, for - “The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold!” And this is the Good News of today.