- The Abbey of the Genesee - http://www.geneseeabbey.org -

August 15, 2017

Fr. John Eudes, OCSO [1]

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Rev.11:1-9, 12, 12:1-6,10; 1; Cor. 15:20-27; Lk. 1:39-58-

This Feast Day of the Blessed virgin Mary is being celebrated by all the Monastic communities of our Order with a particular devotion, for this is the Patronal Feast of all our communities in many different countries. Some of us monks, including the major celebrant  of this mass, made our final vows as Cistercians on this Feast of the Assumption.  Anyone who reads Saint Bernard’s sermons on Mary soon realizes that she was revered with a fervent devotion from the early days of Cistercian Order. That she was assumed into haven is to be crowned as Queen of God’s court is a culmination f God’s gifts to her.

To become acquainted with these early writings on the Holy Virgin Mother of Jesus makes evident that this honoring of our Savior’s Virgin Mother is based on the theological truth of the Incarnation. Saint Bernard was endowed with a rare capacity for ex0pressing the spiritual reality of the Incarnation while underlining the full humanity of the Word of God.

The first reading in this liturgy views the Assumption of Mary from a transcendent perspective. For the Gospels do not record Mary’s life after Pentecost and the circumstances of her death. Various apocryphal accounts have attempted to provide the faithful with plausible but imaginary accounts of her years with Saint John but they are not reliable history.  This Apocalyptic account as to where Mary was  provided for is very vague. We are not told she was taken up into heaven but only that “a place was prepared for her”.  By the fifth century the opinion was put forward that she was taken up to heaven. When Pope Pius XII in his Encyclical Munificentissimus Deus declared the Assumption is a dogma of the Faith he left open the question as to whether Mary died ir was assumed while still living. However, most Catholics, believe that  like her Divine Son she suffered death , but was soon assumed into heaven so that her body never experienced corruption. The most prominent Church on Mount Zion is staffed today by the Benedictine monks  and is built at the place where Mary ’s body was honored by the apostles who were miraculously brought to Jerusalem honor her before she was assumed into heaven..

Toward the end of his First Epistle to the Corinthians , as we heard a short while ago, Saint Paul treats of one of the great mysteries of our human condition. Earlier in this same chapter, he confronts the question that some of the Christians were discussing in Corinth: What is the state of the human person and the body after death? The Apostle meets this issue directly. His language reveals that there was serious emotion involved in the topic, strong enough to cause Paul himself to show deep feeling as he wrote his reply. After he acknowledges that “the sting of death is sin” he goes on to add that “the power of sin is the law.”  Paul’s background as a fervent Pharisee remained firmly rooted in his feelings and mind so that he uses some strong language, calling anyone who raised this question a foolish person.

In modern American the Greek here could be “How stupid to talk such a way.” He then goes on to add  ”But thanks be to ‘God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The effect of the Apostles brief comment here is to cause us who read it to become more aware of what a surpassing grace our Savior gained for us by his death and resurrection. To assure that is readers understood the nature of this central truth of our faith the Apostle discusses in some detail the nature of the resurrection of the human body. He states the matter in this way:  ‘For just as in Adam all die, so also n Christ all shall be brought to life.”  He then adds that only after Christ brings all to life will the end of the world finally take place, and death itself will disappear. What will be particular nature of existence at the end he  provides no details here although elsewhere we are told we shall know God as He is.

The Gospel we have just heard tells us of the prompt visit and stay of Mary to greet and assist Elizabeth who had miraculously conceived a son. Inspired by the Holy Spirit Elizabeth realizes that Mary is carrying the Son of God in her womb. Mary, being herself moved by the Spirit of God then spontaneously prays her Magnificat. We join in honoring her as by adding our praise to hers as we offer this Eucharist with thanksgiving at this Mass.