Thursday, August 15, 2019

Feast of the Assumption

Rv 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab
Ps 45:10, 11, 12, 16
1 Cor 15:20-27
Lk 1:39-56
Today is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary; one of three Marian feasts that are holy days obliging the faithful to attend Mass. The other two are: The Immaculate Conception on December 8 and The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God on New Year’s Day. This particular feast raises questions, both relevant and irrelevant, for many of the faithful. The Feast of the Assumption raises even more questions in the less-than-faithful and the terminally sophisticated. 
The first question is why? Why do we celebrate the Feast of Mary's Assumption. 
Though decreed as dogma by Pius XII in 1950, this feast has been observed in both the Western and Eastern Churches since around the 6th Century. However, despite the early observance, there is no scriptural basis for it, solid or otherwise. A few passages of scripture are sometimes cited as indicating the Assumption. But the explanations of how they suggest the Assumption involve intricate mental and scriptural gymnastics. A second question is how? What were the biology and physics of Mary’s Assumption? As tantalizing as it might be the question is completely irrelevant. The relevant question is what does this feast mean for us today? What should Mary's assumption teach us? 
The Feast of the Assumption points the way for all followers of Jesus who imitate Mary’s fidelity to God’s will. The Assumption points the way, the destination, the arrival point, for all who can utter the same yes that Mary did at the Annunciation: 
"Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum" 
“May it be done unto me according to your word.” 
The Feast of the Assumption tells us that where Mary is—we are meant to be. 
The reading from the Book of Revelation is full of fantastical, strange, and bizarre images. The interpretation of the image of the woman is a subject of considerable debate and disagreement in scriptural and theological literature. Interpretations of this passage range from those who say that these images absolutely indicate Mary, the Mother of God, to readings suggesting that the image of the woman refers to Israel, or the Church, or Eve, or Mary; perhaps all of the above at the same time. 
Many artists have painted and sculpted these verses with very mixed results. One can clearly see the influence of this passage, for example, in paintings of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the only other feast on which we hear this reading. The best interpretative suggestion is that of scripture scholar Adele Collins who notes that it is more important to see the woman’s destiny than it is to identify her. 
Paul’s words comfort and instruct us. “Just as in Adam all die so too in Christ shall all be brought to life.” Mary’s obedience stands in sharp contrast to Eve’s disobedience. Eve’s infidelity to God’s will is trumped by Mary’s fidelity. Mary is the antithesis of Eve. We heard from Luke’s Gospel. 
Magnificat anima meo Dominum
Et exsultavit spiritus meus
in Deo salutaris meo.
"My soul proclaims
the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices
in God my savior." 
Every evening members of religious orders, priests, and those who say the breviary, recite Mary’s Magnificat toward the end of vespers. The prayer does not need elaboration. It does not need explanation from the pulpit. There are lilies that should never be gilded. The Magnificat is one of them. Mary’s prayer calls for quiet contemplation in the depths of our souls; it calls for silent meditation in the stillness of our rooms. As we magnify the Lord, as we rejoice in God our savior, we will recall that God has remembered—that He will remember—His promise of mercy. 
And, as we will remind ourselves in a few moments with the Creed, Mary is where we are meant to be. 


All of the photos are from the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere in Lyon.  The outside has the appearance of a wedding cake.  The lower level chapel and the Marian chapel (with the gold Immaculate Conception on top) are lovely.  The main church was a little too blue and too many lights.  It also had a strange layout in that it was much taller than it was wide and very long.  It overlooks the entire city and is visible from almost everywhere.  

Taken from one of the bridges on the way home from class. 

Serious telephoto action

Main altar.

Bank of candles

Lighting a candle in the chapel directly underneath the gold representation of the Immaculate Conception

The view of Lyon from the ground of the Basilique

Mary the Queen.

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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