The celebration of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary (August 15) brings to mind Luke’s Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles because he wrote about Mary more than any other evangelist, though the information about her may still seem sparse to us. It is good to want more about her: that can lead to meditating upon what has been recorded so that we can allow the Spirit to help us to know Mary better. In the writings of Luke there are a number of important themes, all of which are interconnected. One of these is how Jesus was inclusive of all people, in particular the most marginalized and outcast among them. This group included women, especially the widowed without children (considered as the poorest of the poor), the ill, disabled, possessed, (all fallaciously considered somehow ‘cursed’ by God), the poor, and foreigners, (deemed as those outside the law and therefore unclean). Luke also focused on the power of the Holy Spirit who would guide us after Jesus died and rose. All of this was tied together in Luke’s focus on Mary, the mother of Jesus, without whom there would have been no birth of Jesus, the Son of God, and subsequently there would have been no birth of the Church.
Rather than allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed by the volume of needs in the world or by the sense of being powerless over the forces of evil surrounding us, we need to remain clear that we are not alone on this journey of faith. We have the Father’s presence, the love and mercy of Jesus, and the grace of the Holy Spirit. We also have a perfect mother, Mary, who will continue to intercede for us that we might be protected from evil, persevere through any suffering we might endure, have the desire to meet God in the reflection which comes with prayer, and have the courage to act with love and mercy no matter how small or large the gesture. We need not fear, but let us not become complacent either. Let us remember that the promises of God are always fulfilled. Christ will return, and until then He has left us His Spirit to guide and empower us. He has also entrusted us to the care of Mary. We are indeed blessed.
©Michele L. Catanese
Note: Next entry: August 29
The first photo is one of mine, taken from high atop a hill, at the Hohensalzburg Castle, in Salzburg, Austria. You can see the Cathedral and also the Salzach River which divides the city into the old city and the new city. I chose this photo because it seemed to encompass the old and the new, from the 11th century castle where the photo was taken to the modern parts of Salzburg. Since there is a lot of history contained in this photo, and there is the flow of the river, it seemed to symbolize much of what is contained in the text in the first paragraph.
Second is a painting of the Annunciation by Bl. Fra Angelico. I chose this because I think the artist truly captured the purity of Mary in this work. Though the angel has knelt acknowledging that she is full of grace, her folded hands speak of her humility, a sign of the very grace the angel is acknowledging. Her heart already has room for Jesus and for the many who He would entrust to her care.
The third image is a painting of Pentecost by Duccio di Buoninsegna. Mary is in the center of the apostles, interceding as all are filled with the Holy Spirit. While there are many beautiful renditions of Pentecost, I chose this one because the halos of Mary and the eleven apostles in the painting seem to be joined as one; just as the community was one in the Spirit, the artist seems to have captured the unity by connecting them in this way.
Fourth is an icon called She Who Reigns. Atop the icon, we see the Creator, God the Father, appearing as Michelangelo’s God the Father creating the world. The Spirit is painted as the Shekinah, the cloud of protection. Mary is not simply sitting idle while God is working around her: she is in the midst of it all, just as at Pentecost. Mary is interceding, working with her Son who stands on her lap. He is blessing the world, which is depicted as a golden orb, praying over it, simultaneously pointing to the Father and Spirit, but also upward to His mother, as if to affirm her wisdom and that He has heard her prayers of intercession for us. Notice that her hand is on the globe also. This seems to be because she is working with Jesus and has a tender love for all God has created, too. The straight line formed by Jesus and Mary, upwards to the Spirit and the Father shows a unity of love, intention, and mercy. I think this icon is needed now more than ever because she is one who protects through her prayer.
For the fascinating story behind this icon you can go to: http://www.serfes.org/royal/miracle4.htm
Click here for She Who Reigns: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/she-who-reigns-276-william-hart-mcnichols.html
Next is one of my own photos taken in Pollone, Italy, in the house of the Frassati family. The shoes are those worn by Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. I chose this photo because Pier Giorgio was a man of action, inspired by his faith and the Holy Spirit to put that faith into action. He worked for the poor and for justice. He became the hands and feet of Christ.
Last is another of my photos, a stained glass window taken in the Salesian church in Turin, Italy. (St. John Bosco and St. Dominic Savio are entombed there.) I chose it because I love the beautiful colors in this symbol of Mary. The letters A and M are superimposed: Ave Maria (Hail Mary). The sword which runs through the letters represents the sword which Simeon said would pierce her heart. (Luke 2:22-38, specifically verse 34.) The crown symbolizes that she is Queen of Heaven.