The Pascha of Summer
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Pascha of summer, signals the beginning of the final phase of the liturgical year. The Church enters into the splendours of her harvest time. With the feasts of late summer and autumn, the Church turns the shimmering pages of the book of the Apocalypse and draws us into their mystery. “Blessed is he who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, writes the Apostle, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written therein; for the time is near” (Ap 1:3).
The Transfiguration and the Cross
On August 6th, precisely forty days before the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, we celebrated the Transfiguration of the Lord, a mystery of heavenly glory, a foretaste of the apocalyptic brightness of the Kingdom. “I saw one like a son of man, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength (Ap 1:16). Having contemplated the glory of the Father shining on the face of the transfigured Christ (2 Cor 4:6), in another month we will celebrate His Glorious Cross, the Tree of Life with leaves “for the healing of the nations” (Ap 22:2).
On November 1st, the immense mosaic of all the saints will be unveiled before our wondering eyes in a liturgy scintillating with images from the book of the Apocalypse and echoing with “the voice of a great multitude like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying, ‘Alleluia’” (Ap 19:6).
Saint John Lateran
On November 9th, the liturgy of the feast of the Dedication of Saint John Lateran will point to “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride, adorned for her husband” (Ap 21:2). As Mother Church approaches holy Advent, the end of her yearly cycle, the sacred liturgy seems to increase its momentum. Soon the last cry of the book of the Apocalypse will be ceaselessly in our hearts and on our lips, “‘Surely. I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Ap 22:20).
Those Who Belong to Christ
Today, on this solemnity of the Assumption of the All-Holy Mother of God and Blessed Virgin Mary, we enter into the phase described by Saint Paul in the second reading, “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ” (1 Cor 15:22).
Into the Holy Place
Today, she who “belongs to Christ” by a unique, abiding, and unrepeatable privilege, the most holy Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary, follows where he has gone, “through the greater and more perfect tent not made by human hands, that is, not of this creation . . . into the Holy Place” (Heb 9:11).
The Fragrance of Her Holiness
An antiphon of today’s Office makes us sing: “Draw us in your footsteps, O Mary, hidden with Christ in God! Your paths are sown with delights; exquisite the fragrance of your perfumes.” True devotion to the Mother of God consists in allowing oneself to be drawn after her. He who walks in the footprints of Mary inhales the mysterious fragrance of her holiness, a fragrance known to all the saints.
The Blessing of Herbs and Flowers
An old custom would have us bless fragrant herbs and flowers on the festival of the Assumption; according to legend the tomb of the Mother of God was found to be full of fragrant herbs and flowers after her body had been taken up into glory. Assumed body and soul into heaven, Mary leaves behind a lingering fragrance. It is subtle, not overpowering, but unmistakable. It is the fragrance of purity, of humility, and of adoration. Inhale it, and you will be drawn in her footsteps, even to the feet of the risen and ascended Christ, hidden in glory.
The Best Part
The ancient gospel for the Assumption, Luke 10:38-42 is that of another Mary — Mary of Bethany — seated in sweet repose at the feet of Jesus, listening to his word (Lk 10:39). “Mary has chosen the best part, which shall not be taken from her” (Lk 10:42). With eyes illumined by the Holy Spirit, the Church discerned in the familiar figure of Mary of Bethany an icon of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, assumed into heaven. There, in the presence of her Son, she enjoys the rest promised by God, the Sabbath that will have no end (cf. Heb 4:1-10).
The Chambers of the King
“Draw me after you, let us make haste” (Ct 1:4), was the longing and desire of her heart. Now, to us, she says, “The king has brought me into his chambers” (Ct 1:4). The Assumption of the Mother of God is a signal to the entire cosmos that the divine economy is indeed entering into its final and glorious phase. “Then, says Saint Paul, comes the end, when He (Christ) delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For He must reign until he has put all his enemies beneath his feet” (1 Cor 15:24-25).
A Woman Clothed with the Sun
In the lesson from the Apocalypse, “God’s temple in heaven was opened” (Ap 11:19). The Church, like Saint Stephen her proto-martyr, “full of the Holy Spirit, gazes into heaven and sees the glory of God” (Ac 7:55). The whole array of theophanic signs seen once on Sinai’s heights is deployed again: “flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder” (Ap 11:19). And then, in the heavens appears the great portent: “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Ap 12:1).
The Woman is the bride of the Lamb adorned for her spouse (Ap 21:2); the Woman is the Church presented “in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing . . . holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:27); the Woman is the Virgin Mother of Nazareth, Bethlehem, Cana, Calvary, and the Mount of Olives. “Mary is assumed into heaven; the angels rejoice, and praising, bless the Lord” (Antiphon of Vespers). Behold the Woman of the psalm, the queen whose beauty the king desires, standing at his right, arrayed in gold (Ps 45: 9b-15).
The liturgy is not content with exalting the great apocalyptic icon before our eyes; the liturgy would have us hear the woman’s song for her heart overflows with a goodly theme (Ps 45:1). This, of course, is the reason for today’s jubilant gospel. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Lk 1:46). This is the song of the Bride of the Lamb; this is the song of the Church in every age; this is the song of the Holy Mother of God in the midst of the angels.
Praise and Adoration
If the apocalyptic phase of the liturgical year teaches us anything, it is that, in the end, the praise of God, and adoration, will have the final word. The glorious Assumption of the Mother of God points to the immense and ceaseless liturgy of heaven, to the fullness of that doxological and eucharistic life that begins for us here and now. Those who go in search of the Lamb will find Him in the company of Mary His Mother. “We have seen his star in the east, and are come to adore him” (Mt 2:2).
Mary Is That Star
For us, Mary is that star. “Look to the star,” says Saint Bernard, “and call upon Mary.” Already, the “voice of the great multitude, like the sound of many waters” (Ap 19:6) begins to swell. It is the voice of those who look to the star, and follow her to the marriage supper of the Lamb. A new song rises in the heart of a Church that is alive and young: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come’” (Ap 22:17). Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.