Sunday, 16 August 2015

The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Read Luke 1: 39-56

In England and Wales, the Assumption is celebrated on Sunday 16th August this year.  Some of today's reflection has been inspired by "Abandonment to Divine Providence" by Fr Jean-Pierre de Caussade, a book which I cannot recommend highly enough.

The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.
Munificentissimus Deus, paragraph 44
Pope Pius XII 

Today we celebrate the glorious culmination of the earthly life of the Blessed Virgin Mary: a life adorned with unique privileges, the holiest life ever lived by a mere creature.  When she passed away - I am not sure that 'death' is quite the right word for her transition to eternal life - she followed her divine Son into His heavenly kingdom, without leaving behind that body from which He had taken His own.  It would not be right for such a temple to be abandoned to corruption and decay.

Like all the blessings God bestowed upon Mary, her assumption into Heaven was not just for her; it was for all of us.  Where she has gone, we shall one day follow, not just in spirit but in body too.  The chances are, there will be something of a delay between your soul's ascent - please God - and your body's, but time is of no consequence in eternity.  The assumption of our Lady is a promise to all Christians that Christ's ascension into Heaven was not a return to the old state of separation between God and man, but a prelude and preparation for the completion of our coming together in Him.

Also like all the graces showered on Mary by the Most High, it came freely and unsought.  For Mary never once did anything remarkable, never once looked for opportunities for greatness, never once entertained ambitions to glory and honour.  On the contrary, the story of her life is at best one of mundane domesticity and at worst one of unusual drudgery and sorrow.  We know that Mary of Nazareth helped her aged cousin bring a son into the world, gave birth to a Son of her own while far from home and in abject poverty, married a carpenter, lived as a refugee in Egypt for several years, lost her Son for three days while on pilgrimage, attended the weddings of friends, worried about her boy when He left home, and witnessed His brutal and unjust execution.  The rest of the time, she must have simply attended to the ordinary responsibilities of a wife and mother.  The circumstances she encountered were sometimes extraordinary, sometimes terrible, but for the most part very ordinary, and as each new moment brought a new joy, a new trial, a new cross, she patiently, lovingly accepted it as the will of God and did her duty.  

For Mary, it all began with a 'yes': "Be it done to me according to thy word." She didn't ask questions, she didn't doubt, because she loved the will of God and she trusted that God's providence truly had everything in hand.  And in spite of all of the evidence to the contrary, with each new heartbreak and with the endless intervening trivialities, her faith in His all-powerful providence never wavered, and she crowned every second of her life with a loving renewal of her fiat - "be it still done to me according to thy word."

And that's all.  That's all she did.  She wrote no spiritual classics, performed no recorded miracles, undertook no especially arduous fasting.  She did not lock herself away in a hermitage nor embrace a life of voluntary poverty.  Call to mind the legendary exploits of our great saints, their miracles and heroic virtues; no such stories are told of the Virgin Mary.  St Clare of Assisi once drove away an invading Saracen army by boldly confronting them with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross was a renowned philosopher and bravely suffered a martyr's death at the hands of the Nazis.  Blessed Mother Teresa gave her whole life to the service of the very poorest of the poor.  Our Blessed Lady quietly brought up her Son

And yet she sang, "behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed!" Indeed she is truly blessed, most blessed among all women - simply because she believed the promises that were made to her, and of course they were fulfilled.  

Holiness, you see, does not consist in doing great deeds for God - quite the opposite, in fact; it consists in God doing great deeds for you.  Let Him! Do not go out of your way, tying yourself in mental and spiritual knots trying to discern God's will, since God's will is inexorable and you are living through it in this and every moment of your life.  Simply live in the moment and respond to it by doing your duty as best you can, with an attitude of loving acceptance of God's holy plan, and you will be holy.  What's more, I promise you that you will not find holiness any other way.  The saints who performed great wonders did so only because God led them along the path of His will, one dutiful, accepting moment at a time.  God did great things through them because they echoed the quiet fiat of Mary, through which God's greatest ever work was accomplished.

Lord, my heart is not exalted:
nor are my eyes lofty.
Neither have I walked in great matters,
nor in wonderful things above me.
If I was not humbly minded, but exalted my soul:
As a child that is weaned is towards his mother, so reward in my soul.
Let Israel hope in the Lord, from henceforth now and for ever.
 Psalm 130 (131)

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