Blessed Virgin Mary: August 2007 Archives

Salve Regina, Mater Misericordiae

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Farewell

Today is the last day of the Octave of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We take leave of the great liturgical festivals in much the same way as Jews take leave of the Sabbath, with a sweet sorrow. The Jewish farewell to the Sabbath is called escorting the Queen. Queen Sabbath leaves, escorted to the door by devout hearts and leaving behind her unmistakable fragrance.

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The Need for Octaves

Our Catholic liturgical tradition of the Octave respects one of the human heart’s deepest needs; the need to prolong the feast, the need to linger in the presence of the loved one, savouring every moment and storing up precious memories. For those who enter into the great liturgical festivals of the year there is an unwillingness to let them go, even after eight days. The Church has always honoured the need to prepare, to celebrate, and to prolong her solemnities. The custom of fasting before a feast is a way of making room in one’s soul for the graces flowing from the mystery commemorated. The custom of lingering over the same mystery for eight days is a way of assimilating those graces.

Pius XII

The Octave Day of the Assumption has been celebrated in various ways. In 1944, in the midst of the Second World War, Pope Pius XII entrusted the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He decreed that the feast of her Immaculate Heart would be celebrated on August 22nd, the Octave of the Assumption. The same Pope Pius XII, in his encyclical of October 11, 1954, instituted the feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary on May 31st.

The Octave Day of the Assumption

With the revision of the Roman Calendar in 1969, the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was moved from the Octave Day of the Assumption to the Saturday after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The feast of the Queenship of Mary was moved from May 31st to the Octave Day of the Assumption, and May 31st became the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Writing in 1974, Pope Paul VI explained the reason for this adjustment:

The solemnity of the Assumption is continued into the celebration of the Queenship of Mary on the Octave Day. She who is enthroned next to the King of ages is contemplated as the radiant Queen and interceding Mother.

Pope Paul VI, writing in 1974, after the 1969 reform of the calendar, deliberately refers to the Octave Day of the Assumption. It would seem that he never intended the suppression of the Octave of the Assumption. Just as in the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary follows the Assumption, so too does the feast of the Queenship of Mary on August 22nd complete and crown the celebration of her Assumption on August 15th.

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The Collect

The Collect for today’s feast calls Mary “our Mother and our Queen.” It echoes the language of the Salve Regina: "Hail, O Queen, Mother of mercy." Mary’s participation in her Son’s work of redemption surpasses that of every other creature. Being the Mother of the Redeemer, she entered at the foot of the Cross into the bloody sacrifice of the Fruit of her womb, offering Him and offering herself with Him.

Coredemptrix

Mary is the Coredemptrix not because of any deficiency in the redemption wrought by Christ, but because the Father willed that it should be so. This was the Father’s design from all eternity: that Mary, the New Eve, should enter fully into the saving work of the New Adam; that with Him she should become "obedient unto death on the Cross" (Phil 2:8); and that with Him she should be exalted forever in glory (cf. Phil 2:9).

Mediatrix of All Graces

Mary is the Mediatrix of All Graces because the Father willed that His Son should be “born of a woman” (Gal 4:4). The Father has given us all things in His Son. Saint Paul writes to the Romans, saying: “He that spared not even His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how hath He not also, with Him, given us all things?” (Rom 8:32). “And of His fullness we all have received, and grace for grace” (Jn 1:16).

Everything is given us in Christ. Christ is given us through Mary. Everything, then, is given us in Christ through Mary. Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins put it this way: “(Mary) mothers each new grace /
That does now reach our race.”

The maternal role of Mary did not come to an end after the birth and childhood of her Son. Her participation in His divine mission grew and unfolded day by day, until on the day He suffered, she heard Him say from the Cross, “Woman, behold thy Son” (Jn 19:26). In that hour Mary became the mother of the Beloved Disciple and of every disciple until the end of time; and in that hour Our Lord provided her with the means to exercise her universal maternity freely and lavishly on behalf of all her children. This is the divine logic of her universal mediation. In his homily for the canonization of Saint Anthony of Saint Anne Galvão in Brazil last May 11th, Pope Benedict XVI pronounced one of the clearest statements ever made by the Popes on Mary as Mediatrix of All Graces. This is what the Holy Father said: “There is no fruit of grace in the history of salvation that does not have as its necessary instrument the mediation of Our Lady.”

The Things That Are Above

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A Commentary on the Mass of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

There is no better way to enter into the mystery of any feast than by passing through the portals opened for us by the Church herself in the texts and signs she has chosen for it. Nothing of what the Church says and does in the liturgy is without significance. Every word, every gesture, is, as Psalm 118 puts it, "a door opening onto the light, giving intelligence to the simple" (Ps 118:130).

Introit

Gaudeamus! The Mass today opens on a note of irrepressible joy: Let us all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating a festival in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, at whose Assumption the angels rejoice and all together praise the Son of God. This is no mere earthly joy; it is the joy of heaven spilling over, cascading down through the choirs of angels until, having reached us here below, it again takes flight heavenward, leaving us surprised by joy.

The joy of today's festival descends from heaven and returns to heaven. It leaves us caught up in a mystery bigger than ourselves, obliges us to set our sights "on the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God" (Col 3:1). It is as if the Virgin Mother herself, borrowing the words of the Apostle, speaks to us out of that glory in which she is "hidden with Christ in God" (Col 3:3), and says, "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth" (Col 3:2). The Assumption of the Mother of God is a jubilant "Sursum corda!"

Collect

Almighty and ever-living God,
by whom Mary, the immaculate Virgin Mother of your Son,
was taken up, body and soul into the glory of heaven:
grant, we beseech you,
that, ever intent on the things that are above,
we may become worthy
of sharing in the glory that is hers.

The Collect of the day flows directly out of the Introit. What the Introit proclaims in song, the Collect turns into prayer. We address the Almighty and ever-living God, the God for whom, as the Angel said to Mary, "nothing is impossible" (Lk 1:37). We confess the Church's firm belief that Mary, at the term of her mortal life, was taken up, body and soul, into the glory of heaven. An astonishing thing! That Mary should be in heaven spiritually, is something easily conceded. That her very body should be mysteriously "hid with Christ in God" (Col 3:3) is quite another thing.

The dogma of the Assumption declares that the human body, being constitutive of who we are, is not expendable, not a mere wrapping to be discarded. Our bodies have a glorious destiny: the liturgy of the heavenly Jerusalem, described in the book of Revelation, will engage our bodies as well as our spiritual souls. The Mother of God is already engaged body and soul in that heavenly liturgy where the priests of Sion "are clothed with salvation and her saints rejoice with exceeding great joy" (Ps 131:9). This is why the Preface will call Mary, "the beginning and likeness of the Church in her fullness."

The petition of the Collect asks that, "ever intent on the things that are above, we may become worthy of sharing in the glory that is hers." The language of this petition is lifted directly from Colossians 3:1: "Seek the things that are above." Everything today moves upward. Everything is caught up in that movement of return to the Father inaugurated by resurrection and ascension of Christ our high priest, a grand entrance procession wonderfully continued in the assumption of his Mother.

Prayer Over the Offerings

May the offering of ourselves
rise up into your presence, Lord;
and may the all-blessed Virgin Mary,
taken up to heaven by you,
so help us by her intercession,
that our hearts, set ablaze with the fire of love,
may ever yearn for you.

The Prayer Over the Offerings intensifies the upward movement into the presence of God, but here, the upward movement becomes one of offering. Ascendat ad te are the opening words of the prayer. The images are those of Psalm 140, the song of the evening sacrifice: "Let my prayer arise before you like incense, the raising of my hands like an evening oblation" (Ps 140:2). This is the prayer of the Virgin Mary at the hour of her passing-over. Mary herself is the incense rising at the evening hour of her earthly life. "Who is she coming up from the wilderness, like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense?" (Ct 3:6). And so we pray, "May the offering of ourselves rise up into your presence, Lord, and may the all-blessed Virgin Mary, taken up into heaven by you, so help us by her intercession, that our hearts, ablaze with the fire of charity, may ever yearn for you."

The image of incense rising is coupled with that of hearts set ablaze with the fire of charity. In the ancient form of the Mass, the priest, after incensing the altar, returns the thurible to the deacon, saying, "May the Lord kindle within us the fire of his love, and the flame of undying charity." There is something of that prayer in today's Prayer Over the Offerings. It invites us to cast our lives, our very selves, like grains of incense onto the glowing embers of a charity fanned by the Spirit. Thus do we ascend heavenward with Mary's evening sacrifice as an offering made to God.

Preface

Truly it is right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God,
through Christ our Lord.

Today the Virgin Mother of Christ
was taken up into the heavens,
to be the beginning and likeness
of your Church in her fullness
and an assurance of hope and consolation
for your people on their pilgrim way.
You would not let her see corruption in the grave
for she had given birth to your Son, the author of all life,
in the wonder of his Incarnation.

United therefore with all the choirs of angels,
we praise you, and in gladness proclaim:

The Preface of today's Mass sees in the Virgin Mother of Christ an icon of what the whole Church will be in her fullness. From her place in heaven, Mary shines as "an assurance of hope and consolation" for us as we make our pilgrim way through this valley of tears. The Preface borrows its imagery from Chapter Eight of Lumen Gentium: "The Mother of Jesus in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven is the image and beginning of the Church, as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise she shines forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come (cf. 2 P 3:10), a sign of certain hope and comfort to the Pilgrim People of God" (LG, art. 68).

In Mary's shining forth from heaven, one detects also something of Saint Bernard's marvelous sermon on Mary, the radiant Star set by God in the heavens. Listen to the Abbot of Clairvaux: "Mary is that star I say, uplifted over the ocean of this world, shining by her merit and shedding light on us by her example. O you who struggle in this stormy sea, do not turn your eyes from this star, if you would escape shipwreck! When the winds of temptation arise and you run on the rocks of tribulation, look at that star, think of Mary, call on her by name. If you follow her, you will not go off course; if you cry to her, you will not give up hope; if you think of her, you will not go astray" (Sermon IV, Super Missus Est).

The last part of the Preface draws upon Psalm 15, the prophecy that, from the time of Saint Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost, spoke to Christians of the resurrection of Christ. What David prophesied about Christ concerns also those who belong to Him and, in the first place, His holy Mother. The Preface sings, "You would not let her see corruption in the grave for she had given birth to your Son, the author of all life, in the wonder of his Incarnation." The Psalm -- and today we hear it from the lips of the Virgin Mother -- says, "My heart rejoices, my soul is glad; even my body shall rest in safety. For you will not leave my soul among the dead, nor let your beloved know decay. You will show me the path of life, the fullness of joy in your presence, at your right hand happiness forever" (Ps 15:9-11).

Communion Antiphon

The Communion Antiphon rightly repeats a line from the Gospel of the Mass. Mary's bold prophecy at the time of her Visitation to Elizabeth is fulfilled in the mystery of her Assumption: "All ages will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me" (Lk 1:48-49). The Eucharist is the beginning in time of our eternal blessedness. It is the "beatifying" sacrament because it makes us truly happiness with a foretaste of the bliss of the blessed in heaven. The Eucharist is first among the magnalia Dei, the great things done for us by the Almighty.

Prayer After Communion

Grant, we entreat you, Lord,
to us who have partaken of this healing sacrament,
that the merits and intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary
whom you have taken up to heaven
may bring us in our turn
to the glory of the resurrection.

The Prayer After Communion refers to the Eucharist as a health-bringing sacrament. Our Eucharistic healing will be complete only when we, like Mary, are taken up to heaven in the glory of the resurrection. One hears beneath the Prayer After Communion the words of Jesus in the discourse on the Bread of Life: 'He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (Jn 6:54). The last phrase of the prayer is ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur, "that we may be brought to the glory of the resurrection." Thus does the Prayer After Communion resume and complete the whole upward movement of today's Mass.

Ours it is to allow the prayer of the Church, her lex orandi, to penetrate us so completely that it is, not only what we believe objectively, her lex credendi, but also how we live today, tomorrow, and the next day, our lex vivendi. Evelyn Underhill, at the beginning of her marvelous little book on the Mass, expresses it in a piece of poetry:

We rise, but but by the symbol charioted,
Through loved things rising up to Love's own ways:
By these the soul unto the vast has wings
And sets the seal celestial on all mortal things.

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A lovely icon for Marymas or Lady-Day-in-Harvest

Luke 1:39-56
1 Corinthians 15:20-26
Psalm 44:10-12.16
Apocalypse 11:19; 12:1-6.10

The Pascha of Summer

Today's festival, 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).

All Saints

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).

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Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe's Act of Consecration
to the Blessed Virgin Mary

O Immaculate, Queen of heaven and earth,
Refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother,
to whom God willed to entrust the entire order of mercy,
I an unworthy sinner cast myself at your feet,
humbly begging you to be so good as to accept me wholly and completely
as your possession and property,
and to do with me, with my whole life, death and eternity, whatever pleases you.

If it pleases you, use my whole self without reserve
to accomplish what has been said of you:
"She will crush your head," (Gen. 3:15), and also:
"You alone have destroyed all heresies in the whole world"
so that I may become a useful instrument
in your immaculate and most merciful hands
for promoting and increasing your glory to the maximum
in so many strayed and indifferent souls,
and thus extend as much as possible
the blessed Kingdom of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

For wherever you enter,
you obtain the grace of conversion and sanctification,
since it is through your hands that all graces comes to us
from the Most Sweet Heart of Jesus.
Allow me to praise you, O most holy Virgin.
Give me strength against your enemies.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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