Reading 1: 1 Chronicles: 15:3-4, 15-16; 16:1-2
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 132:6-7, 9-10, 13-14
Reading 2: 1 Corinthians: 4:30-5:2
Gospel: Luke: 11:27-28
Always and everywhere and at every liturgy, it is “right and just, our duty and our salvation” to give God thanks and praise. On this Marian feast, the liturgy’s doxology presents us with the implications of the doctrine of the Assumption as it points out the particular contours of the Church’s praise: “For today the Virgin Mother of God was assumed into heaven as the beginning and image of your Church’s coming to perfection and a sign of sure hope and comfort to your pilgrim people” (Roman Missal, Preface at the Mass During the Day). Christ’s resurrection was a singular event in its saving significance. But out of his death and resurrection came new possibilities for all who already have fallen asleep in death and all who still will die. “In Christ shall all be brought to life,” and even death itself ultimately will be destroyed. Because of Mary’s unique role in salvation history as Mother of God and Mother of the Church, God gave her an early share in the fullness of Christ’s resurrection by taking both her soul and her body into heaven shortly after her very real death. Now more like Christ than ever, she to enjoys forever an immortal, glorified body as she intercedes for the Church.
The interplay of Scripture and liturgy illuminates the assumption we can anticipate for ourselves as we celebrate Mary’s Assumption. Through our baptism, we are now counted among “those who belong to Christ” who shall be brought to new life in proper order. Mary belonged to the eternal Son of God even before she so uniquely participated in God’s plan for the salvation of the world through the conception and birth of Jesus the Christ through the Holy Spirit. Since every child makes the mother, Mary likewise belonged to Jesus Christ, God’s Anointed One, before his birth—as tiny John recognized through a joyful intrauterine leap and Elizabeth exalted in exclaiming: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
Birth and death can be treacherous affairs as they draw their primary participants and any attentive bystanders into mysterious liminal spaces at the edges of the unknown, filled with wonder and awe. Although the birth of a child is normally a happy occasion, dangers wait to devour the ones who survive their entrance into this world. But those God catches and calls close “are borne in with gladness and joy.” Death is more traditionally terrifying and typically something suffered, but blessed are the ones who believe with a childlike trust that everything God promises will be fulfilled in the end, even in and through and despite our apparent “end” in death that shares much in common with the utter vulnerability of birth. Although the effects of death were more momentary for Mary than we expect they will be for the rest of us, her wholly human experience of resurrected life in Christ gives us hope that we too, eventually, will be fully assumed by God, body and soul.
What else can we assume? As Catholic Christians, we can assume a life anointed at both ends as followers of God’s Anointed One. We were anointed after baptism marked our birth into the new life Christ offers us through his death and resurrection. If possible, we will be anointed at least once more in final preparation for our death as we hope to receive in that context the three “last” sacraments of Penance, Anointing of the Sick, and Eucharist as viaticum. In faith and hope, we assume that our future rests with God who remembers promises and remembers us. Meanwhile, we can assume the work that remains for us to do, the work that God invites us into. From the domestic church to the Church as God’s pilgrim people on earth to the Church as leaven and sacrament in this world of the future God is preparing for the entire cosmos, God is doing both mighty and mundane things in which we can fruitfully and sacrificially collaborate as we practice the dying and rising that is our destiny. Pride runs rampant until it is scattered (including the pride that resides in our own hearts). Mighty ones remain free to oppress unless someone challenges their prerogative to do so. The lowly need lifting and the hungry need filling and the vulnerable need helping. There are those who have forgotten or never heard God’s promise of mercy. The Almighty has done great things for us, and holy is God’s name!
Anne McGowan, PhD
Assistant Professor of Liturgy