Today the Church celebrates the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. This is one of the oldest feasts, celebrated by the faithful in ancient times. This year is seventy years since Pope Pius XII declared to the world*; in front of 600 bishops and 700,000 of the faithful; as divinely revealed dogma, that Our Lady’s body “was preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendour at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages.”2
In the same Apostolic Letter (Munificentissimus Deus) Pope Pius XII also stated
“Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare wilfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith.”
These are pretty strong words and we have a sense in today’s readings of how integral to our Catholic faith this day is. In the first reading from the book of the Apocalypse, St John uses images which would have been familiar to his readers; at least three pagan societies had mythical stories where a monster, which preyed on their society would be slayed by a saviour from within their community. John used elements of these three stories. The point John was making was that “the hope of salvation from evil and chaos, which such stories embodied has now become a reality; a reality known to the Church and shared through its witness to the whole world.” John is highlighting that “the hopes and aspirations of the world are not a threat to be avoided, but a dream which finds its waking reality in Christ.” 3
Likewise, in St Pauls’ first letter to the Corinthians we are reminded that if death came to man through the actions of one man: Adam, then man can be brought to life again through the resurrection of Christ. Jesus, the new Adam, will conquer all sovereignties, powers and dominions, and only then will he hand the kingdom of God back to his Father.
These two passages talk of heavenly conflict with victory for God, these are complimented by what initially seems like a very human story from St Luke’s Gospel. Mary having recently found out that she is pregnant, goes to help her cousin, Elizabeth, who is also pregnant. This is something which has happened in human society for what seems like forever, and still goes on today. Women who are pregnant meet up and talk about their joy, their hopes and fears. However, when they meet, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leapt. This first human recognition of Jesus; by the prophet from within his mother’s womb, is followed by Elizabeth; the prophet’s mother; recognising the significance of Mary, as the ‘mother of my Lord’.
We then have the beautiful prayer The Magnificat, when Our Lady, no doubt prompted by the Spirit, praises God for the blessings bestowed upon her and declaring that God will turn the world upside down by overthrowing what man sees as significant and re-establishing what God holds to be significant.
St Luke then tells us that Mary stayed with Elizabeth until around the time that Elizabeth’s baby was due, before returning home.
These passages from scripture link heaven and earth, they link the beginning of time with the end of time and they link us as humans with God. As Jesus was approaching his final breath, he gave His Mother, to be our Mother too. He asked the disciple that he loved, to take His Mother into his home. We know that Jesus loves each and everyone of us, that message was not just for that one disciple, it was for all of us. Today we celebrate our Heavenly Mother’s entrance into her Heavenly home. She is sitting, waiting, beside our brother Jesus for the day when we can all be there together. Until that day let the world resound with many Ave’s as we acknowledge Mary the Queen of Heaven, as our mother and take her into our homes.
Please keep in your prayers this week
- All pregnant women, may they be supported by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary throughout their pregnancy, may they and their babies be kept safe during labour.
- For those who do not have or did not have a good relationship with their mother, that they can be open to an intimate relationship with Mary the Queen of all Mothers.
- All railway staff as they mourn the loss of their colleagues and passenger in the recent rail crash at Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire.
- Those who affected by Covid 19, especially those who have been unable to get treatment for other conditions as a result of hospitals being focused on the pandemic.
- All medical, nursing, health and care workers who have worked tirelessly to help those suffering, as well as the other ‘Essential workers’ who have tried to keep supplies and public services as normal as possible.
Deacon Tony Darroch, 15th August 2020.
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2 Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, available from http://www.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_p-xii_apc_19501101_munificentissimus-deus.html accessed 15th August 2020
3 Marcus Maxwell, Revelation – The People’s Bible Commentary, (The Bible Reading Fellowship, Oxford, 1997)112-3