Saturday, August 14, 2010

On the Assumption of our Lady

For the past Sundays, the readings have constantly confronted us with the futility of the things of this earth and of the necessity of store up for ourselves treasures in heaven. The series of readings began with the rich man whom the Lord called a fool for failing to learn about the ephemeral quality of earthly things, youth, strength, fame, and influence. Last Sunday, the Lord showed us the wise and faithful servant who has found his peace in the service of the Lord: “Happy will that servant be whom his Master finds vigilant at his return. Amen I say to you he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.”

Today’s feast gives a human face to that wise and faithful servant, who is no other than the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our Lady is known to us as the Mother of God but to herself, she embraced the name “Handmaid”: “Behold the Handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me as you have said,” she said to the angel. Our Lady has always acknowledged the greatness of God and the humility of her own person: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord…for He has looked with favor upon his lowly servant.” Throughout her life, Mary saw herself as the lowly servant of the Lord. And our Lord recognized this fact for he calls his Mother blessed on account of her motherhood and of her discipleship: “Blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it.” Elizabeth in today’s gospel reading acknowledges Mary’s beatitude as one of motherhood (Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb) and of discipleship (Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.)

And what did our Lord say about the beatitude of the wise and faithful servant? He said, “He will gird himself, have them recline at table and proceed to wait on them.” St. Bernardine of Siena wrote: “Jesus, to honor the triumph of His most sweet Mother, went forth in His glory to meet and accompany her.” Our Lord prepared more than just a table for her in his Kingdom. He prepared a throne: “It was precisely for this purpose that the Redeemer was pleased to ascend to Heaven before His Mother: He did so not only to prepare a throne for her in that Kingdom, but also that He might Himself accompany her with all the blessed spirits, and thus render her entry into Heaven more glorious, and such as became one who was His Mother.” (St. Anselm, Bishop and Doctor of the Church) “If the mind of man can never comprehend the immense glory prepared in Heaven by God for those who on earth have loved Him (1 Cor. 2:9), who can ever comprehend the glory that He has prepared for His beloved Mother who, more than all men, loved Him on earth; no one, even from the first moment of creation, loved Him more than all men and angels united?” (St. Bernard of Clairvaux) The Lord knows how to repay His servants. He is never outdone in the liberality of His graces to those who love Him. The honor that He lavished upon His Mother at her Assumption makes Our Lady’s immense love for Him look so little. “Today she is welcomed by Him whom she herself welcomed when He came to the hamlet of this earth of ours. But with what honor He welcomed her, with what exaltation and what glory! There was not on earth a worthier spot than the temple of her virginal bosom, nor was there in Heaven a place more exalted than the seat where Mary was enthroned by her Divine Son…Who can conceive how great was the glory of the Queen of the world, as she advanced, or with what depth of devotion and affection the whole multitude of the heavenly legions went forth to meet her; with what glad canticles she was conducted to her glorious throne; with what placid mien, what serenity of countenance, what divine embraces she was welcomed by her Son, and exalted above all creatures, with the honor which such a Mother merited, and the glory which became so great a Son?” (St. Bernard of Clairvaux)

The Assumption proves the point we have been reiterating for the past Sundays: Everything is vanity except being at the service of God. As we rejoice in the glory with which our Lord clothed His Mother and Disciple, may we look to her for inspiration and consolation. As we continue to be tossed in the stormy sea of this world, may we fix our eyes upon her who is now enthroned in Heaven. To her we say: “To you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To you do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn, then, O most gracious advocate, your eyes of mercy towards us. And after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed Fruit of your womb, Jesus. O Clement, O Loving, O Sweet Virgin Mary.”

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