Readings for Mass during the Day
Rv 11:19a;12:1-6a,10ab; Ps 45:10-12,16; 1 Cor 15:20-27; Lk 1:39-56
What a strange command: “Forget your people and your father’s house.” The Holy Spirit commands the Virgin Mary through this psalm to leave everything and everyone behind. The LORD has something in store for you O Blessed Virgin Mary, something far greater than any heritage your family or your father may be able to offer. As our holy father Pope Benedict reflected during an interview, the religions of the nations around Israel usually had a husband-wife arrangement of the deity. These couple gods were of the the male and female variety. The LORD reveals himself as the Divine Spouse of Israel his Beloved. This faithful Divine Spouse seeks a covenant intimacy with his bride, Israel. This divine human relationship finds its ultimate revelation in the incarnation of the Eternal Son of God, fully human and fully divine. His bride is the church, and the Blessed Virgin Mary is a model and prototype of the church. Indeed the responsorial psalm describes the unique favor of this New Eve as she is borne in with gladness and joy, entering the heavenly palace of the King. The Blessed Virgin Mary stands in for us; she is a precious glimpse of what we are to be as the Bride of Christ. Indeed, like the Blessed Virgin, the King desires our beauty; for he is our LORD. Indeed, the very beauty he desires is that we are full of grace and growing in virtue. The Lord Jesus longs for us to be as open and responsive to the Word of God as was the Blessed Virgin and to cooperate with his grace is becoming as beautiful as Mary is, the model disciple. In Christ, the New Adam, we can forget our old nature and grow into a new creation in Christ; this is the life that he has planed for us. Such is the expectation of everyone who celebrates this Solemnity.
This vision of the Book of Revelation gives us a glimpse of the whole redemption in Christ, the male child destined to rule all nations with an iron rod. With eyes of faith we behold what the visionary beholds. We see the future glory of heaven, and in the midst of the heavenly temple we behold the Ark of His Covenant, the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the Theotokos, the God Bearer, who is clothed with the brightness of the first creation, the sun and the moon. On her head is seen the crown of twelve stars, one for each of the tribes of the New Israel. All God’s People shine to reveal the glory of her heavenly beauty. Indeed, we magnify the majesty of the Theotokos. Our virtue and beauty reveal her virtue and beauty. However, this is a vision of the whole drama of redemption, not just the incarnation. The great pain of this bright Lady is the pain she knew at the foot of the cross of Christ. The pain the church still feels as it continues to make up in her flesh for the sufferings of the whole Body of Christ still struggling with the spiritual forces that would prevent its birth and growth in holiness. Indeed, these evil forces seen in the vision of the huge red dragon frightening to behold. No matter what the evil dragon attempts to do the bright Woman, the New Eve, is protected and provided for when she takes refuge in the desert. Indeed, we find ourselves in this same desert every Lent when we are about to give birth to a whole new generation of believers in the font of holy Baptism at the Easter Vigil. Even now, as we listen attentively to the loud voice in heaven, we can hear the announcement of the ultimate victory of the saints in glory, “Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed One. Like the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, we share in the same Holy Spirit who anoints the Lord Jesus Christ, and we rejoice in the fulfillment of the Father’s will to make us holy as He is holy. Each time we celebrate this Solemnity of the Assumption we catch a glimpse of our future and find the necessary courage for the battle with the spiritual forces that attempt to devour us before we have a chance to reign in glory.
The mystery of our transformation into Christ is represented each year in this summer harvest festival of the Assumption of our Blessed Lady. Saint Paul instructs us in that mystery that has been hidden for ages past, since the Old Adam and the Old Eve. Now, in the paschal mystery of Christ all of us have fallen asleep with Christ in his death upon the cross. Because our physical death came through the failure of our first parents our eternal life comes through the victory of Christ, the New Adam and his mother, the New Eve. In Adam we all die and in Christ we are all brought to life. Christ is the first fruit of holy obedience to the will of His Father, and Mary cooperating with the grace of her immaculate conception is the second fruit of his paschal mystery. She, the Woman Clothed with the New Sun of Justice is a bright sign for us of the end, when he hands over the Kingdom to his God and Father. In the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary we celebrate the ultimate victory of Christ when He destroys every sovereignty and every authority and power of this world. Even now, Christ must reign until he has put all his enemies under his foot, until his has fulfilled the prophecy from the Garden of Eden. The obedient Son of Adam, Christ will crush the head of the serpent who throughout history tries to lead us into disobedience. By his obedience the Virgin Mary is obedient, and all of us can be obedient children of Our Father in Heaven. Finally this salvation will result in the last enemy being destroyed. Death itself will be destroyed, for “he subjected everything under his feet.” This vision of the future glory is already glimpsed and celebrated in the victory of our Holy Mother over death in her Blessed Assumption.
This mystery of the Visitation is used by today’s liturgy to help us celebrate, in this generation, the true blessedness of Mary the Mother of God. In this encounter between the mother of the greatest prophet and the Mother of God we catch a glimpse of our own blessedness. These two women abound in the power and mystery of the gift of prophecy. From the prophesy of our redemption to the Old Eve to this fulfillment of that prophesy, all the prophets of the Old Testament are echoed in the conversation between Mary and Elizabeth. Each of these faith-filled women speaks in the Spirit of Prophesy. Saint Elizabeth repeats the greeting of the Archangel Gabriel when she calls Mary, blessed among women, full of grace. In the prophesy of Elizabeth, Mary’s blessedness is in her obedience to the will of the Father, in her trusting that the words spoken to her would be fulfilled. Mary is blessed because she cooperated with the plan of God for the redemption of all the children of the Old Eve. Indeed, she is the New Eve, and that is why she is blessed, why she is holy. This holiness continues to be revealed in Mary’s response to Elizabeth. She does not do what most of us would do. Mary does not complement Elizabeth; rather, she magnifies the LORD. The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, delights in the words of Elizabeth by giving all the glory to God. She does not give glory to Elizabeth, nor does she give herself glory. Instead, the Theotokos gives all the glory to God her Savior who has looked upon her with favor. She is still his lowly servant, and in such humility we catch a glimpse of her glory and ours. The Almighty who has done such great things for her is the One who does great things in our lives. She becomes the unique virgin-mother of God. and we are called to cooperate with the grace of God who wants to bring his Son into our hearts and lives. The mystery of Mary’s obedience is a model for our own cooperation with the mystery of Immanuel, God With Us. On all who fear God in every generation is the wonderful and great mystery of the strength of His arm and the scattering of the proud in their own conceit. He continues to cast down the mighty from their thrones and he lifts up the lowly. In our days, The Almighty fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty. His promise of mercy to our fathers is even now being fulfilled in the lives of the children of Abraham. This promise of life eternal is glimpsed in the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and in her unique gift we can envision what our future will be.