The Assumption of the Bless Virgin Mary, August 15th
During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord* should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
The Canticle of Mary. And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
- Are you able to say to God, “May it be done to me according to your word”? Why are these words hard to say for many of us?
- Mary was a Christ-bearer to Elizabeth and John. Who has been a Christ-bearer for you? For whom have you been a Christ-bearer?
- What do you most admire about Mary? Why?
Margaret Nutting Ralph PHD
Our Gospel reading on the feast of the Assumption is Luke’s beautiful story of the visitation, that is, of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth after each has conceived a child. The main characters, of course, are the babies. The infancy narratives that appear in the Gospels are stories that developed late in the Gospel tradition. Their purpose is to teach Christology; that is, they teach the true identity of Jesus Christ. However, in the course of teaching about Christ, Luke gives us a very clear Picture of Mary.
The story of the visitation follows immediately after Luke’s story of the annunciation, of Gabriel’s announcing to Mary that she will conceive Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary’s response to the angel’s words is, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Mary then “set out and traveled to the hill country in haste” to be with Elizabeth.
Luke tells us that when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant “leaped in her womb.” The infant is, of course, John the Baptist. ‘J Gospels, even the two (Mark and John) that do not have birth narratives. In Luke, John prepares the way for Jesus while still in the womb.
The significance of John’s leaping is interpreted by Elizabeth. Elizabeth says, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greet- ing reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” There can be no doubt what Elizabeth intends by the word Lord, for her words allude to another “coming of the Lord.” When the ark of the Lord was brought to Jerusalem David said, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” (2 Sam 6:9). In his joy, David leapt and danced before the ark. Elizabeth’s words and her infant’s leaping both give witness to the incarnation: God has become a human being. Mary is the new ark.
When first greeting Mary, Elizabeth cries out, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” After telling Mary about the child’s leaping in her womb, Elizabeth says, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” In the first statement Elizabeth names Mary’s physical relationship to Jesus; Mary is Jesus’ mother. In the second statement Elizabeth names the reason Mary is so holy; Mary is a model disciple who believes the words spoken to her by God.
The reason for Mary’s holiness becomes a theme in Luke. We have already noted Mary’s response at the annunciation. She is completely obedient to God’s word. Now Elizabeth calls her blessed for her faith. ” ‘Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.’ [Jesus] replied, ‘Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it’ ” (Luke 11:27-28). We love and honor Mary not only because she is Jesus’ mother but because she heard the word of God and observed it. That is why she is most blessed.
After receiving this extraordinary greeting from Elizabeth, Mary prays the prayer that we often refer to as the Magnificat. (In some translations the prayer begins, “My soul magnifies the Lord.”) Mary y has done great things for me, / and holy is his Name.” She does not think in terms of what she is accomplishing for God. She understands what is happening to her personally in a universal context; she praises God not only for doing great things for her, but for showing mercy from age to age. “He has remembered his promise of mercy, / the promise he made to our fathers, / to Abraham and his children for ever.”
Because of her complete obedience to God’s word, and her belief that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled, Mary is the preeminent disciple. Jesus’ disciples follow Jesus through death to life. Today we celebrate our belief that Mary has already experienced the gift that Jesus offers all who have faith in him: the resurrection of the body.
She Points to the Son
Fr. James Smith
The proclamation of the Assumption reads this way: “The immaculate Mother of God, Mary ever virgin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul to the glory of heaven.”
There is no biblical basis for this doctrine. But Catholics believe that God reveals divine truth both through scripture and tradition — both through the Bible and through how Christians live out their biblical belief in history. So when Pope Pius XII asked bishops in 1950 whether their congregations believed that Mary was assumed into heaven, and 98 percent answered yes, the pope thought God was speaking through the church.
As reasons for the proclamation, the pope alluded to the bloody world wars of that century, the growth of materialism, the corruption of morals and the desecration of the human body. By extolling the body of Mary, he meant to recall the inherent dignity of all human bodies and their eternal destiny. He wrote, “In her bodily glory in heaven, Mary is a sign of hope and solace for her pilgrim people.”
Let’s review the historical development of our appreciation of Mary. The Gospel of Mark says that Mary and family tried to take Jesus away because they thought he was out of control. Later, Matthew and Luke still blame the family, but leave Mary out of it. Still later, John has Mary standing at the foot of the cross. And most scholars think that when Jesus put the disciple in the care of Mary, he was making Mary the mother of all disciples and there- fore the mother of the church.
By the third century Mary was universally considered a virgin.
Mary soared in the fifth century. People were debating the humanity and divinity of Jesus, so the Council of Ephesus said that because Mary was the mother of Jesus she was the mother of God. And once someone is proclaimed Mother of God, her other titles easily follow: Mother of Mercy, Mother of Consolation, Mother of Sinners — Mother of Everything!
In the Middle Ages, Mary took on a private identity apart from her son, often even against her son. The more the divinity of Jesus was stressed, the more distant he seemed from ordinary mortals. Mary was popularly seen as the merciful way around the stern judgment of Jesus. Mary was the back door to heaven.
Mary gained further popularity because she was the delight of poets, the love of singing troubadours, the fair maiden of noble knights. And she sat for more portraits than anyone in history. In more modern times, she appeared to make personal appearances all over the world, which greatly increased her fan base.
Were things getting out of hand? Vatican Council II must have thought so. Until that time, in church documents, Mary had her own special section between the section on Christ and the section on the church. But this time, Mary was noticeably placed within the section on the church. She was put in her place, so to speak. But what a wonderful place. Mother of the church!
There is an infinite divide between God and everything else. No matter how beautiful and holy Mary is, she is definitely on our side of the gap. Her position in God’s providence, just the same as ours, depends totally on her relationship with her son.
Selections from Breaking Open the Lectionary: Lectionary Readings in Their Biblical Context for RCIA, Faith Sharing Groups, and Lectors—Cycle A, by Margaret Nutting Ralph, Copyright © 2007 by Margaret Nutting Ralph. Paulist Press, Inc., New York/Mahwah, NJ. Reprinted by permission of Paulist Press, Inc