A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars
–Revelation 12: 1
What a beautiful day, what a beautiful feast, and what a beautiful presence of Mary, Mother of God, Mother of the Eucharist, and our Mother. Her presence is unique and tangible because she, “… the Immaculate Virgin preserved free from original sin when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things so that she might be more fully conformed to her Son…” (CCC: 966)
Being fully more conformed, she has received from her Son the role of entering human existence with extraordinary power and presence to the degree Jesus grants her. Every son exalts his mother and honours her. What greater gift could the Lord of Lords and conqueror of sin and death give to his Mother? The Church teaches that the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a “singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians.” (CCC: 966)
When Jesus rose from death appearing in a glorified body, the disciples had a difficult time believing it was Him, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I.” (Luke: 24:39). We commonly accept the separation of the body and soul at death with a firm belief that the one we love continues to live in the encounter with the living God. But our eyes, having seen so vividly the destruction or annihilation of the body, cause our minds to wonder how this decayed or destroyed body can rise to eternal life. Yet God in His Almighty and creative power will grant incorruptible life to our bodies, reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus’ Resurrection. (CCC:997).
Jesus tells us: “no need for you to be surprised at this, for an hour is coming in which all those in their tombs shall hear his voice and come forth. Those who have done right shall rise to live; the evildoers shall rise to be damned.” (John 5:28, 29).
St. Paul: “Perhaps someone will say, ‘How are the dead raised up? What kind of body will they have?’ … The trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed. This incorruptible body must be clothed with incorruptibility and this mortal body with immortality.” (1 Cor 15: 35, 52,53).
The disciples gave an account of what a glorified, incorruptible body looks like in their eye witness accounts of Jesus’ resurrection appearances.
From the first centuries, Mary’s Assumption has been part of Liturgies and homilies honouring her at the time of her death. By the end of the middle ages belief in Mary’s Body and soul being raised into heaven was well established in the Church’s writing and prayers.
It’s instinctive to see that this “singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection” would be the perfect response and gift from her Son. She, naturally, would be the first to be given a glorified body in a unique, beautiful way. Belief in the Assumption flows spontaneously from our contemplation of the mystery of Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she, “full of grace” would conceive as a virgin the Son of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Assumption of our Beloved Mother also blossoms in our thoughts and imagination when we allow the Sacred Word of Revelation 12: 1 to pierce our mind and heart: “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun and the moon beneath her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”
The Church gave us in Holy Mass today beautiful encounters with Mary’s Assumption calling us to turn to her as a true and eternal Mother. For example, in the Collect:
“…grant, we pray, that, always attentive to the things that are above, we may merit to be sharers of her glory…”
We are not destined for an eternal list of things to do, or an everlasting pursuit of happiness or a constant struggle to be free of burdens impossible to carry. We have been created to experience in this life the joy of knowing Christ. Mary, Assumed into heaven, takes us by the hand toward the horizon of this embrace.
In the first reading from Revelation we enter into the sanctuary or temple of God in heaven where a great sign appeared:
“…a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with the twelve stars on her head for a crown.”
The intense drama of evil begins to mar the beauty and greatness of the Mother of God who is in the pangs of childbirth. The dragon waits to devour the child of her labour, but God rescues the Son born who “was to rule all the nations with an iron sceptre” and “the woman escaped to the desert where God kept her safe from any harm.”
This is our consolation we heard in the first reading that closes with the definitive answer to any evil that prowls through the world: “Victory and power and empire forever have been won by our God and all authority for his Christ.” (Rev: 11: 19a; 12:1-6a,10ab)
St Paul unites with this truth in the second reading: “After that will come the end, when, after having destroyed every sovereignty, authority, and power, he will hand over the kingdom to God the Father. Christ must reign until God has put all enemies under his feet, and the last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1Cor: 20-27)
How amazing to consider all God’s enemies, all the evil powers that spring up around us throughout the world, all the ways that life is destroyed. It’s jolting to hear that God’s final enemy is death, what we are so familiar with, even taking for granted, perhaps, that it’s simply the normal course of life. I came to a profound awareness of this truth, this “last enemy” when I spent a great deal of time with my mother in the last two years of her life at 91 and 92 years. I was overwhelmed by her body gradually being annihilated by death. It was not enough to know that she was being taken by the Lord into His arms, an awareness that gave me joy and peace. But Jesus gave me an experience of truly knowing that the death of the body is his enemy which he has in his sights to destroy forever. St Paul’s teaching has enormous meaning for me along with Mary’s Assumption into heaven. These are real and tangible realities of the Kingdom of God that I seek and place all my hope in that will come to fruition in God’s own time.
The Gospel for Holy Mass purposely brings us to the high point of the Assumption. We read and say with Mary, her Magnificat:
My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for He has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely from now on, all generations shall call me blessed; for the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name…” (Luke 1: 39-56)
We must not be afraid, for in our own lowliness, with our constant need of consolation, in our weakness in the face of temptation, and with our yearning to be loved and wanted, we can humbly turn, every moment, and in the final hour of earthly life to the one who has been born for us through His Mother who was assumed into heaven. In our asking for help and begging to be loved we will not be disappointed. No, we will experience a depth of peace and happiness beyond our imagination. Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, assumed into heaven will take us by the hand and lead us into Her Son’s heart where we will find our secure and everlasting home.