15 August 2008 Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Rev 11, 19a; 12:1-6; 10ab; Psalm 45; 1 Cor 15, 20-27; Luke 1, 39-56
The Eastern, Oriental and Coptic Orthodox and the Catholic Churches teach and celebrate the Assumption of Mary. For Catholics, this belief was solemnly declared by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950. Pope Pius XII said: “By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”
Many Catholics have been criticized for their devotion to Mary. Because of the various Marian traditions and practices, popular piety often look like worship of her. We should therefore clarify that we do not worship Mary (only the Trinity is worshipped), but we give her to highest honor accorded to human beings like us for having participated in our history of salvation. The Solemnity of the Assumption therefore reminds us that if we participate in the grace of God, we will all be with God, body and soul, in the end of time. In the end of time at our resurrection, we will conquer death because we will have both body and soul. Death is defined in Christian faith as the separation of body and soul. Mary reminds us of our future with God.
Why do we give Mary the highest honor? First, we honor Mary for agreeing to be Jesus’ mother. She said, “Yes” when the angel Gabriel asked her. Because of Mary, we have Jesus. We wouldn’t have known Jesus without her. Of course, many would refute, “Then maybe God would look for someone else.” Yes, God can do that, but the bible says, it was Mary who agreed to be the human vessel for making Jesus’ existence on earth possible. God needs us as instruments to carry out His will on earth.
With gratitude, we therefore honor Mary today, the way we honor our very own mother, and the mothers of our friends. Without them, we would not be; without them, we would not experience friendship and love shown by their children, who are our friends.
Second, we honor Mary for the role she plays in our lives. Some people would not have a devotion to Mary. But many people do have a deep love for her. In Christian art, the images of the Madonna and Child, whether as icons or statues, have Mary’s fingers pointing at her Son, whom she carries. The gesture evokes meaning: our love for Mary should lead us to Jesus. Our rosaries and prayers through her intercession, should make our hearts burn for her Son. Following her virtues and her life, should bring us closer and closer to becoming like Christ.
Finally, we honor Mary because her example helps us participate in the fulfillment of the will of God in our lives. How? Many persons experience the accompaniment of Mary in their lives in different ways. Some would experience Mary as someone we can run to when in need (Mother of Perpetual Help). The Gospel tells us that Mary accompanied her cousin Elizabeth in her pregnancy, though she too needed someone to assist her in her child-bearing.
For some, Mary is their protector from evil: follow her virtues, then one will be protected from the seductions of the devil. The title, “Tower of David” in the litany of the rosary, is precisely about protection. The citadel of Jerusalem known as the “Tower of David” is on the highest point of the southwestern hill of Jerusalem, higher than any other point in the ancient city. A series of fortifications in the tower, protected Jerusalem from the west. It also oversees the entire city. The symbol of the Tower of David in the Song of Songs (4:4) was applied to Mary who protected Jesus in her womb, just like the Tower protecting Jerusalem, the city of God. And thus, today, when we invoke the title of Mary, we are asking for immunity from harm --- protecting our holiness (Richard of St. Laurent). At the same time, asking her to oversee our lives the way our mothers would talk to us when we are going astray.
Today, we ask ourselves: How do we participate in the fulfillment of the will of God for us?