Friday, August 15, 2008

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

On this the feast of the Assumption of Mary, Virgin Mother of God, into heaven, the Church is given an outstanding opportunity to meditate upon the evangelical mystery of the Incarnation. For as Saint Luke teaches us, Mary is the holy tabernacle of the New Testament, which bears the awesome, real, and salutary Presence of Christ, our Immanuel. Therein is her holiness, and what is most true of her is true, in an even larger way, of the Church.
The Church is the pure, holy, and ever-virgin bearer of God, the Living Word, in the midst of a world hostile to her. Even now this Church (as each member thereof) is pierced with many sorrows and with scandal, for as one who is marked by the cross of Christ her Redemption, she is marked, as it were, to be a target and enemy of the devil. She is a woman of sorrows. Nevertheless, this great lady, who looks so poor and weak from the world's point of view, is filled with a sevenfold joy. For her life is identified with that of her Lord, the one she confesses to be God her Savior. And if this means she suffers a little with Him now, it also means that she knows who she truly is in Christ. She, like Mary her type, by virtue of the eternal King she bears, is vested with royal dignity. Indeed she reigns with Christ. Luke shows us this as well, for when Mary the tabernacle of the New Testament completed her journey through the hill country, her cousin, though she be Mary's elder, saluted her with the greeting of one blessed to be in the presence of royalty. "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" This as the Forerunner leaps in worship within the temple of his mother, like David who danced before the Lord.
What is true of the Church is true of the Christian. Though we must suffer a cruciform life in this world, even now we know that we are invested, by the mysteries of God, with the dignity of Christ our Redeemer. It would do us well to ponder this in our heart the next time we receive our Lord in the Blessed Eucharist. And indeed one day, we will be taken to Him, where our communion with Him will be pure, eternal, and unsullied, like an unexpurgated work of perfect poetry. With these thoughts in mind, I share the following words of Saint John of Damascus.

"Today the sacred and living ark of the living God, she who conceived the Creator in her womb, comes to rest in the temple of the Lord which was not made by men's hands. David her father leaps with joy, and with him the Angels lead the dance, the Archangels celebrate, the Virtues give glory to God, the Principalities exalt, the Powers are glad, the Dominations rejoice, the Thrones keep a feast day, the Cherubim give praise and the Seraphim proclaim her glory. Today the Eden of the New Adam receives the living paradise in which our condemnation was dissolved, in which the tree of life was planted, in which our nakedness was clothed.

"Today the immaculate Virgin, who was soiled with no earthly desires, but reared in heavenly thinking, did not return to dust, but since she was a living heaven was placed in the heavenly tabernacles. She from whom true Life has flowed to all men, how could she taste death? But she yielded to the law laid down by Him whom she conceived and, as daughter of the old Adam, underwent the old sentence (for her Son, who is Life itself, did not refuse it), but as the Mother of the living God, she was rightly taken up to His side." (Discourse 2 On the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

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