Monday, August 15, 2016

For the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy explains the importance of today's feast day:
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

180. The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary clearly stands out in Ordinary Time because of its theological importance. This is an ancient memorial of the Mother of God, which signifies and synthesises many of the truths of the faith. Our Lady assumed into Heaven:

  • is "the highest fruit of the redemption"196, and a supreme testimony to the breath and efficacy of Christ's salvific work (soteriological significance);
  • is a pledge of the future participation of the members of the mystical Body of Christ in the paschal glory of the Risen Christ (Christological aspect);
  • is for all mankind "the consoling assurance of the coming of our final hope: that full glorification which is Christ's will also be that of his brethren, since He is of the "same flesh and blood" (Heb 2, 14; cf. Gal 4,49)197 (anthropological aspect);
  • is the eschatological icon in which the Church joyfully contemplates "that which she herself desires and hopes wholly to be"198 (ecclesiological aspect);
  • is the guarantee of the Lord's fidelity to his promise: he reserves a munificent reward for his humble Servant because of her faithful cooperation with the divine plan, which is a destiny of fulness, happiness, glorification of her immaculate soul, her virginal body, perfect configuration to her Risen Son (mariological aspect)199.

181. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (15 August) is deeply imbedded in popular piety. In many places the feast is synonymous with the person of Our Lady, and is simply referred to as "Our Lady's Day" or as the "Immacolada" in Spain and Latin America.

In the Germanic countries, the custom of blessing herbs is associated with 15 August. This custom, received into the Rituale Romanum200, represents a clear example of the genuine evangelization of pre-Christian rites and beliefs: one must turn to God, through whose word "the earth produced vegetation: plants bearing seeds in their several kinds, and trees bearing fruit with their seed inside in their several kinds"(Gen 1, 12) in order to obtain what was formerly obtained by magic rites; to stem the damages deriving from poisonous herbs, and benefit from the efficacy of curative herbs.

This ancient use came to be associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary, in part because of the biblical images applied to her such as vine, lavender, cypress and lily, partly from seeing her in terms of a sweet smelling flower because of her virtue, and most of all because of Isaiah 11, 1, and his reference to the "shoot springing from the side of Jesse", which would bear the blessed fruit of Jesus.

This is really a wonderful feast day, but the dogma of the Assumption can be somewhat difficult to defend if you don't know where to look. See my debate on the Assumption of Mary, in three Parts: Part 1 -- Part 2 -- Part 3. I hope it helps.

What a lot of people don't realize is that the Assumption of Mary, like all of the Marian dogmas, is Christocentric. In other words, at the heart of each Marian dogma is a statement of faith about Christ. The Marian dogmas glorify Christ. Just as Mary, throughout her life, did and continues to do nothing but draw people to her Son, so do the Church's teachings on Mary draw us to some profound truth about Christ.

The Assumption of Mary is Christocentric in the following ways:
  1. The fact that we use the word "assumption" instead of "ascension" is important. "Ascension" implies raising by one's own power, as Jesus did. However, to be "assumed" is to be raised by the power of someone else. This is what happened to Mary. And so we see that it is because Jesus ascended into heaven first and willed that Mary be with Him that she was assumed into heaven. The Assumption implies belief in the Ascension.
  2. The Assumption is also the fruit of a life of grace. Mary did not die (or, at least, her body was not allowed to decay in the ground) because she was preserved from the stain of original sin and committed no sins throughout her life. She rose, body and soul, into heavenly glory. We will too, when Jesus comes again ... but only if we persevere in grace. The Assumption of Mary is the fulfillment, the first fruits, of the promise made to every man so long as he cleaves to Christ and dies in righteous relationship with Him. The Assumption compels us to turn towards the Lord, and it strengthens our belief and hope in the Resurrection.
  3. Finally, one of the effects of the Assumption is the crowning of Mary as the Queen of Heaven. Yet, there can be no Queen without a King. It is only because Jesus is the King of heaven and earth that Mary now reigns as Queen. The Assumption and subsequent Queenship of Mary implies belief in the Kingship of Christ. We will learn more about this next week, on the Memorial of the Queenship of Mary.
There are probably other Christocentric elements of the dogma of the Assumption as well, but that should suffice. If anyone says that the Marian dogmas of the Church somehow take our focus away from Christ, you can be sure that he really doesn't understand our beliefs about Mary as well as he should.

For more on the Assumption of Mary, see the following articles:
Still don't know what to think? I'll let Scott Hahn tell it:



Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Saturday, August 06, 2016

For the Feast of the Transfiguration

What is the transfiguration?

The transfiguration is the moment when Jesus’ divine glory was made manifest to the apostles Peter, James, and John on the top of a mountain. In other words, Jesus’ divinity was not veiled or hidden by his humanity. Instead, Jesus allowed it to shine forth in splendor and power. His face was bright like the sun and his garments were pure white. Moses and Elijah also appeared, and a great cloud overshadowed them. From the heavens a voice declared, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” (Lk 9:35). Peter offered to build tents for the three figures, no doubt to prolong the experience!

You can read all about the transfiguration in the synoptic Gospels (cf. Mt 17:1-9; Mk 9:2-10; Lk 9:28-36) and from Peter (2 Pet 1:16-21). Also see my blog post, "Building Booths for God," as well as the following links:
Pax Christi,
phatcatholic
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