Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Book of Revelation supplies the first reading on this feast of the Assumption of Mary.
Some Catholics remember Revelation by its more historic name, at least in Catholic biblical translations, of Apocalypse. Protestant editions long ago began to title this book Revelation, and this name has become more popular. Now it even appears in Catholic translations of the Scriptures.
Apocalypse actually is a better term, since apocalypse describes this style of literature, a highly symbolic, dramatic, poetic way of writing.
Unfortunately, the magnificence, and hopefulness, of the Book of Revelation often is obscured by an uninformed and occasionally outlandish misreading of this book, as if it were all about doom and gloom or ridiculous forecasts of terrible things to come.
This book looks to the present, but with a glance to the future. It speaks of the battles between good and evil, between God and the forces of sin. It speaks in the conviction that the Redeemer has come, but redemption is still being achieved. Ultimately, it insists, good will triumph over evil, life over death, and God over sin and despair.
In this Scripture the “woman clothed with the sun” is the Church, the virgin bride of Christ. The light of God envelops the Church, guides the Church. Twelve stars, perhaps representing the holy Apostles, surround her head. Nature, represented by the moon, are below her.
Christians over the years also have seen Mary, the mother of Jesus, in this reading. Ever virtuous and faithful, assumed into heaven, brilliant in her holiness, Mary stands before us as a “woman clothed with the sun,” queenly, victorious and rewarded.
St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians is the source of the second reading. It recalls that Christ was raised from the dead. Christians loyal to Christ also will be raised from everlasting death. When the material world ceases, faithful Christians will live, with Christ, forever.
For its last reading, the Church presents the Gospel of Luke and this Gospel’s magnificent recollection of the prayer spoken by Mary herself as she arrived at the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah: the “Magnificat.”
This passage reveals very much about Mary. It shows her as the human mother of the Son of God. It reveals her holiness. Fervent prayer was part of her life. Mary knew the divine identity of her unborn child. She knew her role. She trusted and obeyed God.
Mary was essential to God’s historic unfolding of salvation. She was the indispensable, solely human, instrument in the fulfillment of Redemption; the first and greatest Christian.
Pope Pius XII infallibly declared belief in Mary’s Assumption to be part of Catholic teaching in 1954. It was a great event, but his pronouncement only echoed Christian belief throughout history.
He mentioned this history, seeing in it the living, constant faith of the Church. Evidence of this history is plentiful.
Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay, founded in 1537, was named to honor Mary’s Assumption. So was the great cathedral in Mexico City, the second largest Christian church in the Western Hemisphere, dating from 1573. So was the first cathedral in the United States, in Baltimore, opened in 1821. Countless other old churches around the world bear this name.
Assumption Parish, or county, in Louisiana, was founded, and named, in 1807.
This historic belief makes sense. It acknowledges the trust that God rewards the faithful, as Jesus promised many times.
Mary, “full of grace” — to quote Luke’s Gospel — completely believed in Jesus, as John’s Gospel indicated in its accounts of the wedding at Cana and of the Lord’s crucifixion on Calvary.
The glory that came to Mary in her Assumption, because of her faithfulness, will come to us if we, too, are faithful.
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