Today the Church celebrates our God who keeps his promises, our God who never forgets, our God who sees every act of love, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, our God who rewards his faithful with rest and peace and exaltation when the course of our earthly life is over. Today is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII dogmatically defined, “that the Virgin Mary having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”
What a fitting end to her difficult life, a life with moments of joy, for sure, but also a life filled with struggles and suffering, with much confusion, and many questions unanswered. But even with the confusion, even amidst her sadness and pain, the Blessed Virgin Mary, again and again, gave her “yes” to God—even while so many in her day said “no.” But today is not about them who say no, it is about her, and those like her, who say “yes.” Yes! to life and love. Yes! to prayer and holiness. And an unequivocal, unwavering yes! to God. In the words of her cousin, Elizabeth, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
God did not promise Mary a life free of suffering and pain. God promised that she would be pierced by many pains, but that all generations would call her blessed because God had done great things for her. And so we do. We stand alongside countless generations who call her our Blessed Mother—The Blessed Virgin Mary.
Isn’t that interesting that Mary was able to say, “all generations will call me blessed because God has done great things for me and holy is His name?” From the moment she became pregnant outside of her marriage to Joseph her life was filled with struggle. From the moment she said yes to God it was nothing but sorrow, but yet she saw nothing but blessing and glorified the Lord her God. How could that be? How could it be that Herod tried to have her killed, and her nephew was beheaded, and her son was wrongfully accused, tortured and beaten, and finally crucified, that she could proclaim the greatness of the Lord and rejoice in God her savior? I’ll tell you how, she was humble of heart, and she had as her motto for life, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word.” The Blessed Virgin allowed God to lead her in life. She let His plan be her plan. She let his will be her will. She knew that her role was but that of a servant in God’s unfolding plan of salvation. She said “yes,” and gave the world it’s savior. And God wants our “yes” too. What will God do with our yes? How many souls would be saved if His plan were our plan?
And so we celebrate her because she did what so few of us are ready to do. I was just talking with a man I had gone to school with at Mt. View and Chatom, and we agreed that whenever we try to have it our way it’s never as sweet and when we do it God’s way. There may be fruit sometimes, but it’s like the nectarine you get at Walmart—out of season! Sure, it’s a nectarine, but it’s not very sweet. Go to a Cipponeri’s fruit stand, on Geer road, and it’s like sugar in your mouth—sweet and delicious. That’s God’s desire for us.
We celebrate the Assumption because it’s not about going through the motions of life and always having it my way. The Assumption is the celebration of the truth that doing things God’s way will be not be easy, but the end brings with it rest and satisfaction of a life well-lived for the glory of God. That’s the Assumption: God’s promise of rest from our labor and exaltation among the saints.
The Assumption of Mary isn’t primarily about Mary at all—it’s about you and me, and about a God who sees every act of love done at the service of him and his Kingdom. It’s about the promise of God that he will raise us up on the last day—that his faithful will not see corruption when our earthly life comes to an end. It’s about the dragon never having the last word. It’s about hearing those sweet words, “Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed One,” and knowing that we played a part.
St. John Damascene (675-749) said, “It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles…it was fitting that God’s mother should possess what belongs to her Son and that she be honored by every creature as the Mother and the Handmaid of God.”