Assumption – 2010

Fr. Charles Irvin

The Assumption of Mary – 2010
Rev. 11:19, 12:1-6,10; 1 Corinthians 15:20-27; Luke 1:39-56

Throughout Christian history it has become quite clear that those who seek Mary’s love and care find something that only a Holy Mother can give. Try as the worldly might, they cannot rid us of her holy presence, a presence that always, truly, and surely, gives us the God’s Presence that comes into our world in her Son.

Of all the women who have ever lived the mother of Jesus Christ is the most renowned, celebrated, vener­ated, and honored. Millions of newborn babies have been given the name of Mary, along with countless churches, shrines, and holy places. The world’s greatest musicians and artists have lavished their considerable talents upon Mary with a prodigality unknown for any other woman in human history.

Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians maintain that she remained ever a virgin, that she was born without sin, and that she shared in the redemptive suf­fering of her Son for our salvation.

A number of commentators on recent history, along with our two most recent popes, maintain that Mary played a significant role in the ending of Communism throughout Po­land, Eastern Europe, and even within the former Soviet Union itself. In her ap­pearance at Fatima, Portugal, in 1917, the Virgin predicted the rise of Soviet to­talitarianism. Shortly thereafter that happened when the Russian Revolution ushered it in. Furthermore, in the Fatima vision, she requested that the pope and the Catholic bishops consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart for the conversion of Russia. Critics laughed and scoffed, calling such a prediction “ridiculous.”

Pope John Paul II in his great devotion to Our Lady of Fatima precisely followed her direc­tive and not long thereafter Mikhail Gorbachev was named Chairman of the Soviet Communist Party and president of the Soviet Union. As we all so keenly know now, because of President Gorbachev the former Soviet Union of Communist Socialist Republics no longer exists. Coincidence? Perhaps. There remains nevertheless a powerful connection between those events and Virgin’s appearances during this century, particularly at Fatima.

During the last two decades there has been a significant increase in devotion and attention given to the Virgin Mary and our Mother. Most interesting is the atten­tion given to her by those not of our faith. A number of feminists who have little love for the Ro­man Catholic Church recognize Mary as an active heroine who is a crusader for social justice. They note that she was singularly loyal to her son, following His adventurous life even though many in His day thought He was doomed to failure. At the foot of His cross as He died, all of the men had fled. Mary stood by Him. She was always at His side to love and sustain her rejected Son.

Furthermore, she was a woman of strength and courage who experienced pov­erty, alienation, suffering, flight, and exile. She stands for the poor and the op­pressed who hold her close in their hearts. Mary’s mighty Magnificat is an anthem for social justice. She is the quintes­sential Woman, giving her heart and her love for people rather than for power and the politics of control. She is, claims one feminist, ” … the most liberated, the most determined, and the most responsible of all mothers.” Pope Benedict does not disagree, even though his preferences lead him toward oth­er emphases. In his many writings, pope John Paul II did not argue that women should shun careers outside the home, but he exalted the role of women as those who provide nurtur­ing for children along with love and security for them in the family home. As for submissiveness, our two most recent popes have presented the Virgin Mary to us as submissive to God, not to male-dominated social orders.

Mary remains throughout all that has happened to her, and throughout all that critics have tried to do to her, nonetheless our Mother. She is the Mother of the Church. She is the pre-eminent saint. She is the feminine in which we find the supernatural, in whom we find divinity made human flesh. In a male dominated Judeo-Christian history she gives us divinity in human femininity.

Whenever we hear something about Mary we should quickly move to a consideration about what such a statement tells us concerning ourselves. Every statement, every dogma and doctrine about Mary is a statement about the Church, and consequently about us because, after all, we are the family of the Church and she is our Mother.

First, there is the matter of our destiny, a destiny that is found in death and the purpose of human life. Clearly the Assumption of Mary in heaven is a recapitulation of the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ. What we face in these two events is a statement by God that human life has a destiny beyond death. Humanity can look, says God, to Mary as an archetype; she sums up what God has in mind for you and for me.
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin May into heaven is another way of stating the last part of the Nicene Creed: “We believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen. ” We can have genuine and reasonable hope in a future that cannot be outdone by death. Why? Because the first installment on that hope has been given to our mortal human nature in Mary, a mere mortal like ourselves.
Well, you say, Mary was something special, a very significant person, a magnificent and extraordinary human being created specially by God. We can never ever hope to be like her. She is too “different”, too “extraordinary” for us to identify with her. But the testimony of the New Testament will not allow us to sustain that interpretation for too very long. Why? Because the evidence of Salvation History forces us to conclude that God tends to work with small and insignificant things, with little and forgotten persons. God makes very significant what is ordinarily insignificant. And that applies directly to you and to me. Mary is the prime example.
You can be sure that almost everyone in the first century thought that all of the important and significant things were happening in Rome, or in Athens, or in the other centers of political power and commerce in our world. But God was doing something far more important in the womb of an unknown little Jewish girl in the backwaters of the world’s arena, just as He was at work in the womb of an old and apparently sterile woman, Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin. The determining event in history was not taking place in Rome, with all of this world’s might and power, but in Mary. Rome’s power now lies in the dust of history, but the so-called insignificance of Mary still exerts tremendous influence on the lives of countless men and women today, 2,000 years later.
All of this may sound strange to us. We are accustomed to noise and fanfare, to electrifying announcements from the centers of power and commerce. But with God, there is a notable quietness in His ways. For instance, the over-powering daily event of dawn is accomplished in utter stillness, its rays of light stealing silently but inexorably into the nooks and shadows of our world, filling them with warmth and light. Have you witnessed a dawn recently? There’ s something that deeply stirs within you when you contemplate the rising of the sun at dawn. It is overpowering, majestic, awesome … and yet accomplished in silence, gentleness, and seemingly insignificance behind the clutter and noise of our daily events.
And then there are those significant events in our lives. When you think about it, ask yourself how many of the really important things that have affected your life were accomplished in silence, in smallness, insignificance, and in powerlessness. Think of your relationships with the ones whom you love. Think of the events, the moments, and think of the people that have really shaped your life. Most all of them, I daresay, entered into your life in seeming insignificance, smallness and silence.
Mary’s Magnificat is a very consoling prayer for me because it gives me hope. A little Jewish peasant girl is responding with a message of hope to an old and seemingly sterile woman in a backwater part of the world. Both are pregnant, strangely pregnant, by the power of God. The tiny hands of their babies were taking form in their mothers’ wombs, hands that would shape and mold human history. That ought to fill us with a genuine sense of expectancy, even today. For what tiny little hands are with us today in their mothers’ wombs, tiny hands which eventually might write a great symphony, or refuse to sit in some segregated area of some bus, or give another “I Have A Dream” speech to stir millions of oppressed people, or write the poetic visions, or be another Mother Theresa of Calcutta?
And when it comes to our own old age, who can say that God cannot use us as He did Elizabeth? Or who can say that death is the end of life? After all of our pumped up preenings have failed, it is the prerogative of God, the very work of God, to bring significance out of insignificance, and the extraordinary out of the ordinary, as well as life out of death.
Does our Church’s dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven have meaning for you and for me? You bet your life it does!
Throughout Christian history it has become quite clear that those who seek Mary’s love and care find something that only a Holy Mother can give. Try as the worldly may, they cannot rid us of Mary’s holy presence, a presence that always, truly, and surely, gives us the presence of God and the sanctity of human life that comes to us in her Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. His mother’s Assumption into heaven is our promised hope.