In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
All the blessings of Our Lord Jesus Christ, my Brothers and Sisters in the faith, for today we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into the arms of her Son in Heaven. It is fitting for us to imagine the Resurrected Christ bathed in the light of His eternal life and glory. He opens His arms for His Mother whose soul in Heaven has been reunited to her flesh from Earth. This is the opposite image of the Crucified Christ lying dead in the arms of His Mother, the Mater Dolorosa, before He is removed to the tomb of St. Joseph of Arimathea. Death is vanquished in Christ Jesus for Himself and for all the faithful who are reborn in Him; but the heaviest sorrow of death and loss, the deepening ache in a mother’s heart when her son has been torn from her, the inconsolable tears shed when a mother outlives the person to whom she gave life, all that anguish gives way to the resplendent joy of coming home when in the Assumption our Mother in faith is reunited with her Son. Although at times we may think of Our Lord’s Resurrection in almost clinical terms, as an intellectualized statement of faith we recite in the Nicene Creed and call to mind on Easter, we cannot think of the Assumption in a cold, detached manner – not if we have had a mother who loved us unconditionally; not if we have loved and lost our own mothers; not if we have experienced at least some semblance of the joy of coming home after a long time. In a way, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary humanizes the Resurrection of Our Lord, for most of us can relate more intimately, emotionally, longingly with the image of a mother and her son reuniting when all had seemed to be lost.
The Assumption tells us that the Resurrection is so much more than raising up humanity from the dead. It is so much more than separating the sheep from the goats and casting the one and final Judgment that recapitulates all that has been redeemed back into a good relationship with the Father. What we are meant to see in the Assumption is the reuniting of families into eternal life. The Blessed Virgin Mary is our advocate to her Son, the champion of all the faithful before the throne seat of God, precisely because she is now in a living relationship with her Son. She is our Mother in Heaven precisely because she is alive with her Son and so able to enjoy now and forever that deep, knowing, intimate bond that mothers can only have with their children. The Resurrection in store for the faithful in Christ is not just a statement of faith come true. It is and will remain an all-encompassing reality, a life lived in joy, akin to the moment when the deepest loss has been restored to us. Except imagine that moment stretched into eternity. So much joy frankly is hard to comprehend, and yet the Assumption gives us a glimpse that this is what God has in store for the faithful. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the icon of faithfulness – Be it unto me, according to thy Word – but in the Assumption we learn that she is also the icon of the eternal joy that is born of faithfulness. To live in faith is so much more than simply believing what may be unseen or unprovable. That is only the beginning of faith. What the Assumption shows us is the end of faith: The norms and the expectations of this our fallen world turned upside down; the snares of death made no more wretched than gracefully falling asleep; the embrace of life eternal freed from the abstract mind and made into a reality that is palpable. The Assumption is not simply or even primarily a singular event in the life and death of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is that, yes, but more so it is a sign for all the faithful who willingly trust their souls unto Christ.
There are detractors who insist that the Assumption is not recorded in the Bible, and yet think upon the image of “the woman clothed with the sun” in the twelfth chapter of the Revelation of St. John the Divine. There is a prefiguration of Our Lord in the Psalms that is eerily similar to this image. In Psalm 104 we read, “Praise the Lord, O my soul; O Lord my God, thou are become exceeding glorious; that art clothed with majesty and honor. Thou deckest thyself with light as it were with a garment, and spreadest out the heavens like a curtain.” Who else is this “woman clothed with the sun” but the Blessed Virgin Mary, the first among the faithful, the icon of those who will be restored to the likeness of God in virtue of the loving sacrifice of her Son? As she is now clothed with the sun, so will we the faithful be clothed in the light of eternal life. As she is the Queen of Heaven, so will we the faithful be forever regal, strong, and beautiful, bearers of an incorruptible crown, and adopted into Our Lord’s Kingdom. Also, consider now Psalm 131:8: “Arise, O Lord, into thy resting place: thou and the ark, which thou hast sanctified.” The ark is a tabernacle, the womb of the Lord, and so we see here a reference to the Theotokos, the bearer of God. As the Lord will arise to His resting place, so will His Mother. His rest will be hers, and in her rest we the faithful are offered a sign of the rest in store for us. It is true that we are not the Theotokos in the same sense as the Blessed Virgin Mary. None of us literally will be the Mother of God. Nevertheless, we can be baptized into His eternal life, and we can endeavor to bear His life and His love in our souls. We can bear the Holy Spirit in us, and as we are freed from all our sins in Christ Jesus we can start to see more of ourselves in the Queen of Heaven.
We have found artwork in the Christian Catacombs that depicts the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pious belief seems to have been early and universal. Several Early Church Fathers commented on the theological implications of this event, and some of them actually imagined what the Lord said when first embracing His Mother in Heaven. In the early fifth century, John the Theologian wrote: “The Lord said to His Mother, Let your heart rejoice and be glad. For all favors and all gifts have been given to you from My Father in Heaven, and from Me, and from the Holy Spirit. Every soul that calls upon your name shall not be ashamed, but shall find from you mercy, comfort, support, and confidence, both in the world that now is, and in that which is to come.” The implication is clear. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a gift given unto her in acknowledgment of her faithfulness and as the foundation for her further service for mankind. In rising bodily into Heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary serves as an icon for we the faithful of the life and the joy in store for those who keep the faith no matter the odds. She is our support when our faith wavers, our confidence when our faith gives way to shame, and in her bodily ascent into Heaven she is our example. For Christ died for us, but like His Mother in her Assumption we the faithful ascend into Christ.
Pray, my Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, that we the faithful may come to see the Blessed Virgin Mary not as an ethereal pseudo-goddess removed from our condition in life, but rather as our Mother, intimately concerned for us and praying for us to join with her Son. Though at first glance the Assumption may seem to remove her from our everyday experience of life, the deeper truth is that the Assumption highlights what she has in common with us – a longing to be with the Lord in Heaven and a mother’s heart that can find her solace in nothing else but in coming home. The more we can see our lives in hers the closer we are to the heart of her Son.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.