Today we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven, an event we ponder frequently as the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the Rosary. On this Solemnity, we encounter a profound mystery that the Church has pondered for centuries. Mary, conceived without sin, lived her whole life without sin, remaining immaculate until death. So it was fitting that she should remain free of all physical corruption at the end of her life. Instead of leaving her sinless body in a tomb, God took her up, “assumed” her, body and soul, into Heaven. This is a truth of our Faith, formally defined as a dogma by Pope Pius XII in 1950. Now, truly, we can say with joy to the Lord, “the Queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.”
The Book of Revelation speaks of “a Woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” In light of today’s feast, we can interpret this vision as a symbolic description of Mary, taken up into the glory of Heaven. Her enemy, the devil, is formidable and strong, a “huge red dragon,” but he cannot touch her. She is given “a place prepared by God.” The sun, the moon, and the stars that surround the Woman are signs of her heavenly glory. Mention of the sun brings back to mind the description of the glory of Jesus which we read nine days ago on the feast of the Transfiguration: “his face shone like the sun.”
The “feasts of glory” keep reminding us that God’s plan is for all of us to shine with his glory – the glory radiating from the face of Jesus Christ, now filling the heart of Mary our Mother. Today’s second reading gives us some insight on how the glory of Christ is going to be shared with all those who belong to him: “… in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, all those who belong to Christ.” Everyone who belongs to Christ will be brought to life again in him. The first to “belong to Christ” is Mary, so she is the first after Christ to share in the glory of a risen body. But when St. Paul says, “all who belong to him” will share his victory, it is clear that Mary is not the only one. This feast honors Mary in glory, and also reminds us that we are all made for eternal glory, each one in proper order. Mary’s Assumption is not merely a sentimental reflection about our Mother. It is a victory celebration and a powerful incentive for us to persevere – with her intercession – in the midst of the struggles of life.
The Gospel today recalls a different Mystery of the Rosary, the Visitation, which we can ponder with new insight in light of today’s feast. We know with greater certainty than our forefathers had that Mary was assumed into Heaven, and this knowledge enriches our pondering of Mary’s words to Elizabeth. As always, our grasp of the meaning of the Scriptures grows as we ponder the word in our hearts. The power of the word itself is at work in us, transforming us in glory. When Mary says, “The Almighty has done great things for me,” surely she is thinking about being made the Mother of God. But now it also applies to her being brought into Heaven – a “great thing” indeed! When she says, “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly,” she does not seem to be referring to herself, but is rejoicing in the knowledge of a spiritual principle about how God works. He favors the lowly. Only little ones can enter the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Mt 18:3). This too is even clearer in light of Mary’s Assumption; she is the “lowly one” now raised to the highest of places. Also, when Mary sings about God fulfilling his promises to Abraham and his descendants forever, we can see a prophetic reference to her own experience of being brought into the promised land of Heaven.
Just as Jesus humbled himself and so was exalted, “caught up to God and his throne,” now we see Mary, his closest follower, his lowly handmaid, also exalted, taken up to Heaven. As we celebrate with joy her glorious Assumption, let us learn from her the way of lowliness, and be counted among the lowly ones who will be raised up. Let us look forward with hope to the day when we too will share in the glory of the Lord.
How do I rejoice in the glory God granted to Mary and also to me as I strive for eternal life? How do I experience the power of the word transforming my life to glory? In the midst of the struggles of life, how do I implore Mary’s powerful intercession?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 19, no. 6. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.