Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO
19th Saturday in Ordinary Time
Solemnity of the Assumption
Patronal Feast of the Cistercian Order
Revelations 11:19a, 12: 1-6a, 10ab;1 Corinthians 15:20-27; Luke 1: 39-56
When the Servant of God Pius XII defined the dogma of the Assumption, he pointed out that Mary was closely associated with the salvific plan of the Redemption. She shared in Christ’s sinless conception, His life of ministry, His passion, and in His resurrection. We celebrate our Order’s patronal feast as members of a monastic church where nothing is preferred to the praise of God’s glory and where we strive to be totally conformed to Christ. Christ triumphed over death with the omnipotence of his love. This love impelled Christ to die for us and thus to overcome death. In a word, love alone gives us access to the Kingdom of life! This then is at the root of our celebration of the Assumption. We believe that Mary, like her Son, overcame death and is already triumphant in heavenly glory, in the totality of her being, “in body and soul”. Enthroned as queen of heaven and earth, Mary invites us to know the Word of God, to love the Word of God, to live with the Word of God, to think with the Word of God.
The Church has traditionally referred to Mary as the new Eve. Standing in the shadow of the Tree of Life she is The Mother of Life just as Eve, standing in the shadow of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, became the Mother of Death. By the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit the Word took flesh of the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As the Offspring of the Woman, He entered into mortal combat with the ancient serpent and rose victorious from the tomb. Because of the bond of love that existed between Mother and Son it seemed proper that the struggle that was common to the Blessed Virgin and her divine Son should be brought to a close by the glorification of her virginal body. We have only to recall these words of the apostle to the gentiles. “When this mortal flesh has put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is overcome by life” (1 Cor. 15: 54).
We can only imagine the tenderness with which the disciples entombed her body after she had fallen asleep in the Lord. As her body lay there, wrapped in its burial clothes, the heavens opened and a stairway appeared joining heaven and earth (Cf. Gen. 28: 12). The Angel of the Lord opened the tomb and filled it with heavenly light. The Lord of Glory approached the place where her body lay and took her by the hand, saying: “Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come away with me” (Song 2:10). At the voice of the Master, Mary opened her eyes and entered into her heavenly homeland where she shared in the joy of her risen Son.
Today is a feast of great hope for all, who like Mary, know themselves to be the handiwork of God and who prefer nothing to the love of Christ. In the Woman clothed in the sun, we come to know what St. Paul meant when he wrote to the Church in Philippi: “For me to live, is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Like Mary, we need to be detached from the things of this earth and cling to God alone. Her death was union with God, for He alone was her treasure and the resting place of her heart. Because she ended her life as she had lived it, death was not bitter; rather, it was very sweet and dear to her; because by it she was united more closely to her Son in the Community of the Trinity. Mary who was at home with God’s word, who lived on God’s word, who was penetrated by God’s word, has been taken up body and soul into Heaven. May He Who drew His virgin mother into heaven strengthen our faith in eternal life. May He make us people of hope who work to hasten the coming of the Kingdom.
With St Bernard, who sang the Blessed Virgin’s praises, let us beg the intercession of her who this day was assumed into heaven. “We pray you, O Blessed One, for the grace that you found, for those prerogatives that you deserved, for the Mercy you bore, obtain that the One who for our sake deigned to share in our wretchedness and infirmity, through your prayers may make us sharers in his graces, his bliss and his glory, Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who is above all things, God blessed for ever and ever. Amen” (Sermo 2 “de Adventu”, 5: PL 183, 43).