Maria assumpta

Published on 14 Aug 2020

Today the Virgin Mother of God was assumed into heaven as the beginning and image of your Church’s coming to perfection and a sign of sure hope and comfort to your pilgrim people [1]. 

The Assumption encourages us in our trust that the journey on which we have embarked will bring us one day into the eternal presence of God.  As we honour Our Lady carried up incorrupt to heaven we renew out faith that we ourselves, as parts of the Body of Christ, are on the road to happiness with God forever.  Dying, Jesus entrusted his mother to an apostle [2]. Now Maria assumpta reminds all those who share the apostolic faith, that death is not the end.   Christ, cruelly killed on Calvary, rose again.  His Body, which is the Church, bearing the terrible marks of his wounds, is also resurrected.  The Assumption of the Lord’s mother, image of perfection and incorruptibility, celebrates the hope of the Church that our destiny includes not only the defeat of sin and death but also the triumph of goodness and life.  The happiness to which God invites is more than the opposite and the confounding of evil but is the joyful reality of eternal life in his company and that of Our Lady and all the saints.

Blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled [3].  The promise made to Mary was that she would give birth to the Son of God: You will bear a son and you will name him, Jesus [4]. Furthermore, the child to be born will be holy, he will be called Son of God [5].   The promise of the incarnation is accompanied by assurances about Mary herself.  She is favoured by God [6]. Of all women you are the most blessed [7].  The special place in the history of salvation of this strong daughter of Sion [8] is recognised in both ordinary and very dramatic ways.  Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit [9].  The presence of Jesus in Mary is like the presence of the ark of the covenant in the Temple.  Her Assumption into heaven reminds us, firstly, that the Son has risen from the dead and has ascended to his Father, and, secondly, that we like his mother and all the members of the Church are called to follow him. He is your Lord, pay homage to him [10]. The ark of the new covenant is now in that holy of holies which all the followers of Christ aspire to approach. The sanctuary of God in heaven opened, and the ark of the covenant could be seen inside it [11].  The Holy Spirit, which overshadowed Mary, continues to sanctify the Church, making individual saints and also filling with all the fullness of God[12] the whole body of believers.

The thought of the Assumption as the counterpart-mystery to the Incarnation prompts us to pray even more earnestly for the holiness which the Lord has come into the world to confer on us. By the favour of God, Mary herself was goodness itself.  Her scalding sufferings arose from the sinfulness of others.  The baptised are beneficiaries of Jesus’ defeat of evil but we continue to battle with sin.  The Church is full of sinners but is also like Maria assumpta who has risen above corruption, the beginning and image of your Church’s coming to perfection [13]. This is no floating away from responsibility or from the harsh impact of human nature on many choices and decisions. Our Lady does not leave us behind by being assumed into heaven.  Rather, by being as present as she is in our life of faith she helps us to allow God to lift us up also. They are escorted amid gladness and joy; they pass within the palace of the king [14].  Empowered by the Holy Spirit, she brings us the Son to whom all authority [15] has been given.  She is now offered to us as a pattern for the progress in holiness by which the Son will enable us to accompany him back to the Father. All will be brought to life in Christ, but all in their proper order [16].

Our grief over those we have lost to death and our worries about our mortality are softened by our faith in the Assumption of Our Lady. The last of the enemies to be destroyed is death [17].   Mary reminds us of our immortal destiny.  She shows us that eternal life is our opportunity to rise up to God rather than to fall into ruin.  Closeness to God is everything to her.  The passion and death of her son pierced her heart.  Yet the surpassing good achieved by Jesus in his dying is never out of consideration.  Mary is a model of the faithful accompaniment of the dying.   She exemplifies holy grief.  The mater dolorosa is also Maria assumpta.  Christ’s rising lifts her up also.  His grace, shared with us through her mediation and intercession, unites us too to the Assumption.   We honour Mary assumed-into heaven but not principally by gazing into the sky after her.  She has shown us how to live here and now the kind life in obedience to and in imitation of the Son on which will hereafter bring us also to the Father.  His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you’ [18].

There is another sorrow, which could mar our joy on the Feast of the Assumption, the beginning and image of your Church’s coming to perfection [19]. Our imperfections can seem too great to allow us truly to celebrate.  Might the intercession of Mary be ineffective against the wickedness of us, the members of the Church, who are so sinful?  Could the grace of God, mediated by the assent of the daughter of Sion to the request of God that she welcome his Son, be powerless against our inconsistency. We have definitively accepted him as our redeemer, but refuse frequently to obey his commandments?  Evildoing in the Church shames us and casts us down.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death [20].   Our Lady goes on praying for our repentance and salvation long after we and everyone else might have given up hope.  The sinless one channels grace towards us, and intercedes for us in the heaven into which she has been assumed.  The Church is like Mary in her sinlessness and closeness to God.  Many who have held the apostolic faith have taken her into their home [21] and lived their lives in the way of the Son.  For them, death has marked the transition of a saint into God’s presence.  For us, still striving in this life and humbled by our imperfections as members of the perfect but wounded Body of Christ, there is the prayer for peace: look not on our sins but on the faith of your Church [22].  Our faith is in Jesus, risen but with scars of suffering still marking him. This faith has been shared with us by the apostles. It gives us hope and provokes our love.   May the prayers of Maria assumpta help us to accept once more the grace of God.   May he lift us up to live forever with him.

Homily by Fr Peter Gallagher SJ

[1]              Roman Missal Preface of the Assumption

[2]              John 19.27

[3]              Luke 1.56

[4]              Luke 1.31

[5]              Luke 1.35

[6]              Luke 1.28 and 30

[7]              Luke 1.36

[8]              Micah 4.13

[9]              Luke 1.41

[10]            Psalm (45) 44.11

[11]            Apocalypse 11.19

[12]            Ephesians 3.19

[13]            Preface of the Assumption

[14]            Psalm (45) 44.15

[15]            Apocalypse 12.10

[16]            1 Corinthians 15.22-23

[17]            1 Corinthians 15.26

[18]            John 2.5

[19]            The Preface of the Assumption

[20]            the Hail Mary adds this prayer to the account in Luke 1.28 of the angelic salutation and 1.42

of the greeting of Elizabeth

[21]            John 19.27

[22]            Roman Missal The Communion Rite:  Domine, Iesu Christi, qui dixisti apostolic tuis, pacem

relinquo vobis, pacem meam do vobis; ne respicias peccata mea, sed fidem Ecclesiae tuae.