The readings for today’s glorious feast, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, offer us an opportunity to look back into salvation history to an earlier event in Mary’s life, the Visitation, to the “great sign in the sky” in the Book of Revelation, and to the glory of Christ’s resurrection. These readings are like signposts, directing us along the course of our own journey of salvation. Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven reminds us that the Lord’s plan for each of us is a future of glory and joy with him in eternal life.
At the Visitation, Elizabeth is “filled with the Holy Spirit” and is given insight into the identity and mission of Mary. She cries out loudly to her, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Acknowledging the twin mysteries of Jesus’ divinity and Mary’s divine maternity, she exclaims, “And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Elizabeth further recognizes that Mary’s blessedness is the fruit of her believing that what the Lord said to her would be fulfilled. While Elizabeth’s insights come many years before Mary is assumed into heaven, what she says helps us understand why the Lord honored Mary so greatly at the end of her life.
In her beautiful canticle, the Magnificat, Mary praises God, rejoicing in his greatness and extolling the way of humility. She teaches us how to offer a joyful “yes” to God even when we do not know all he is doing, and how to praise God for all that happens in our lives. Mary shows us how to understand that we are beneficiaries of God’s blessings even in trying times. If we open our hearts to his grace, as Mary did throughout her whole life, we will not be defeated by sin. If we allow the grace of Christ’s death and resurrection into our bodies through the Eucharist, as Mary allowed him into hers through the Holy Spirit, then we too can carry Christ into the world as she did. If we cooperate and trust in God’s will for us, as Mary did every difficult step of the way, then we also will be led to eternal life as she was.
The Church teaches that Mary is the New Eve, succeeding in loving and obeying God where the first Eve had failed. She shows us the greatness of humility. Humility is not a weak, downcast surrender of our self-confidence, but a clear recognition of our utter dependence on God, and the strong acceptance of that truth. Humility enabled Mary to complete her whole journey, from her faith-filled joy at the house of Elizabeth, to her childbirth in the poverty of Bethlehem, to her dreadful anguish at the foot of the cross, to the day she followed Jesus into eternity, assumed body and soul into heaven.
Today’s first reading from the Book of Revelation describes the sweeping vision of the journey of a heavenly woman, from her cosmic glory, “clothed with the sun,” to her giving birth to the male child “who is destined to rule all nations,” to her going “where she had a place prepared by God.” Applying this verse to Mary, we celebrate her going to the place in heaven which God prepared for her from all eternity. “The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.”
Mary is the first to follow her Son into glory, body and soul. But St. Paul reminds us in the second reading that Christ’s victory over death is meant for us all. “In Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order.” In time, when all his enemies have been put under his feet, the last enemy – death – will be destroyed forever.
So, what does all this mean for us here and now – the wonder of Mary’s Visitation and Magnificat, the mysterious vision of Revelation, the Assumption, Christ’s final destruction of death? It means that despite all the trials and crosses we bear in this life, we have the great hope of eternal life. With Mary as our example and guide, let us enter into the blessedness prepared for those who believe that what the Lord has said will truly be fulfilled.
Do I praise God for all that happens in my life? How can I cooperate with God’s will for me? Like Mary, am I willing to be an instrument of grace?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 14, no. 6. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.