15 August. Thursday, The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Rev 12:1-10. A vision first applied to the early church under persecution is extended to imply the miraculous Assumption.
1 Cor 15:20-25. Christ is “first fruits of all who have fallen asleep.” His Blessed Mother already shares in the final destiny of all who belong to Christ.
Lk 11:27-28. The Church applies to Mary the Lord’s saying, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”
First Reading: Book of Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6, 10
Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.
A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth. Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born. And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne; and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for one thousand two hundred sixty days.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming, “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Messiah.
Second Reading: First Epistle to the Corinthians 15:20-25
Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
Gospel: Luke 11:27-28
While he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”
First-fruits of Redemption
“God created man in his own image and likeness.” When pondering Our Lady’s Assumption into Heaven, we may link it with this great statement from the creation story. The trouble is, mostly we tend to reverse the meaning of it, and try to shape God in our own image and likeness. Each of us has a limited concept of the Creator. How people cling to the notion of a docile God, who will grant our wishes if only we ask him in the right way; or an indulgent God who turns a blind eye on the double standards in our lives; or a vengeful God, whom we serve out of fear, in order to buy ourselves into his good graces. To test the quality of our religion we might wonder whether our ideas in any way reflect Mary’s vision of God, especially when she says, as in today’s gospel, “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.”
Our Lady combined humble worship of God with deep joy in his presence, foreshadowing the advice of St Paul to the early Christians, “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17f). In her Magnificat, Mary is not concerned for herself, is not worried about the future; she thinks only of the positive things that God has done for her up to the present moment, and of deep gratitude to God. Self-forgetfulness is a prerequisite for true love, and in Mary we have the supreme example of a person totally captivated by the love of God. No one apart from Mary has ever lived, suffered, died, in such simplicity, in such deep, uncomplicated love of her Maker. Indeed, she is the fairest of all God’s creatures.
Mary saw herself as a handmaid, a willing servant, of the Lord. She lived solely for God, and for this she received the fullness of grace. Catholic theology sees her as blessed by God in a singular manner, through the merits of her Son, Jesus Christ. By his passion and resurrection, Christ overturned the ultimate power of death. And as his mother was intimately associated with her Son on Calvary in his victory over sin, it was fitting that she should also be given a special share in his victory over death. As today’s Preface says, “You would not allow decay to touch her body, for she had given birth to your Son, the Lord of all life.” So the Church holds that after her death, our Lady was reunited with her Son in anticipation of the final resurrection of the dead. She was taken up, body and soul into heaven, to be with God for ever. This is what we mean by her glorious Assumption.
Just as Jesus did not abandon his church at his Ascension, but continually guides and sustain his disciples, so Mary in the Assumption has not left the community behind, but remains a sure sign that we too are called, like her, to share in the fullness of Christ’s glory. She is the living model and guarantee of all that the Church hopes to become in God’s presence in heaven.