The Feast of the Assumption of Mary is a magnificent celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose life culminated in a beautiful death and resplendent arrival into Heaven. It is also a wonderful celebration of the role of Mary, a kind of thanksgiving for her assent to bringing salvation into the world. And it is a celebration of the power of the love of God which filled Mary throughout her life and triumphed over death.
Not much is known about Mary’s life after the death and resurrection of Jesus, but we do know that she was in the care of St. John the Apostle, the one "who Jesus loved." Some traditions have Mary going to Ephesus, in what is now Turkey, and assert that she lived there for the better part of the rest of her life, dying and being assumed into Heaven there. Others say that she returned to the Jerusalem area and died there, also attesting to her assumption into Heaven. Whichever of these traditions is true, there was testimony handed down which teaches that upon the moment of her death, her body and soul were reunited and she was taken bodily into Heaven. Certainly she merited this, given how much she suffered and how much she gave herself totally to the desires of God. She dedicated her life to serving the Father through His Son, who was also her son: Jesus was not only her Messiah and her God, but He was her son, too. That is a lot to get one's head around, so it is no wonder she pondered so much during her lifetime, as the Gospel of Luke tells us!
It is good for us to realize that mystery is very important for us to ponder, to pray about. That Mary had so much to reflect upon helps us to realize that we are not meant to understand everything that happens in our life of faith. I find it consoling that she struggled with it, too. She spent years with Jesus, yet she did not understand things any better than any one of us. But what makes this so important is that she teaches us that understanding is often a matter of the heart, not of the intellect. All that pondering, or meditation and contemplation, allowed her to expand her heart maybe more than her mind. That is why we can have less difficulty understanding the Assumption (or any other mystery of the faith) if we allow ourselves to also ponder as she did. It is a matter of the heart "understanding" rather than purely the intellect.
That is not to say that we should give up trying to understand our faith; not at all. We should do our best to understand and to know what our faith teaches us, rather than to blindly accept everything without allowing it to take hold in our understanding. If we do not try to understand as best we can, we cannot really grow in our faith. It would remain childish and never mature. However, we also need to allow that which is beyond us to become part of us, and that means we need to allow ourselves to do as Mary did: we can "know" by immersing ourselves in the mystery and letting it envelop us. This takes place in the realm of the heart, which is a place with which Mary was intimately familiar and very much at home.
The Assumption of Mary seems to be the culmination of a life lived in the realm of the heart. She once held the beating Heart of Jesus within her body, and then again after His birth she held Him near her own heart when she held Him in her arms. Therefore, she was very familiar with that Heart. From it, Mary knew what true mercy and compassion were; she learned these from observing the way of God as lived by her Son. But she also knew mercy, compassion, and the fullness of love before His birth when she was chosen to be His mother and was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, impregnated with Love. She already lived in the realm of the Heart, and continued to live even more deeply in that realm as she lived her life in service of God through serving others.
Mary's most important role after being Jesus' mother is that of intercessor, often praying to her Son, (and no doubt with Him when He lived at home with her.) We can turn to her to intercede for us, but we can also turn to her to learn more about prayer. She teaches us through her role as intercessor that we, too, can live in the realm of the heart. In fact, she calls for us to enter into that place of solitude, to join her there. During her life, Mary was often absorbed in God through prayer as she pondered and interceded and then acted upon that prayer. Therefore when she died it is only fitting that she be fully absorbed into God, as it were, both body and soul. In Heaven she continues to intercede for us and our world. And in doing so, she calls for us to ponder, and to allow our hearts to be a place where love and saying 'yes' to God are at home.
Maybe we can learn to imitate Mary by turning to her intercession for help from God when we need it. We can enter into the realm of the heart with her, as we turn to her son, Jesus. We can immerse ourselves in the life of God more abundantly simply by becoming people of love more and more. In doing this, we may be able to affect our world even if just a tiny bit, making it more filled with love and less with that which divides us. The Assumption of Mary is both consoling and a challenge to us: it is consoling to know that Mary continues to be present to us, attending to our needs, and it is challenging in that she calls us to learn how to live like her in the realm of the heart.
Let us try to make a little extra time to meet the Lord in the realm of His heart, as His mother does. Just adding a few minutes a day to spend time with Him in prayer can transform our own hearts into abodes of love. Spending time with Jesus helps us to maintain peace in difficult situations and to bring peace to others as well. It can help us to weather storms and to make difficult choices in an uncertain world. It can help us to help others, even if it is simply by our presence in a seemingly "unsolvable" situation. It is our calling to grow in holiness. And the best way to grow in holiness it is by spending time with the Lord in order to learn the ways of the heart, to be empowered by Love just as His mother was. Mary was so empowered by Love that at the end of her life, Love reunited that which was divided by death, and carried her bodily into Heaven.
That is what Love does, and that is why celebrating the Assumption of Mary is so important: it teaches us anew that Love conquers everything, even death. This is why Jesus died and rose: it is the power of Jesus’ resurrection, for which all of us, (except Mary who already has it), wait. One day our souls will be carried off by Love, and then we, too, will be reunited with our bodies once again.
Until then, may we pray to be filled with Love so as to be ready for the day of our own entrance into Heaven! May Love heal all that divides and may Love enable us to be unifiers! May we be able to enter into the realm of Love with Mary as our guide! May we be imitators of Mary, interceding on behalf of our world! May we be ambassadors of the way of peace and love, drawing on the power of the Spirit of Love! And may we be filled with gratitude for the gift of Mary, our mother! Let us meet in the Heart of Jesus, which is the realm of Love, along with Mary! Peace!
All the icons on this page are by Rev. William Hart McNichols.
The top one is The Dormition of the Mother of God and can be found at http://www.standreirublevicons.com/gallery.php?action=viewPicture&id=188
The second one is called Mary Most Holy Mother of All Nations and can be found at http://www.standreirublevicons.com/gallery.php?action=viewPicture&id=323
The icon to the left is called Mother of God Given Eagle's Wings and can be found at http://www.standreirublevicons.com/gallery.php?action=viewPicture&id=110
I chose this last one because it depicts what is in the first Scripture reading in the liturgy for the Assumption of Mary (Revelation 15).
A reminder: I do not receive any benefits by promoting the work of Fr. Bill McNichols on my blog site except the joy of sharing his wonderful work with others!
Heart Speaks to Heart