Mary Magnifies the Greatest of Our God

08-15-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

The Feast of Mary's Assumption into heaven is a feast that celebrates the triumph of Mary into heaven first and then also includes "all who hear the word of God and keep it." Slowly, ever so slowly, the honor paid to Mary by Christians grew through time. In early church documents we learn of Mary's "dormition" meaning the falling asleep or death. In fact, it was the Orthodox Church, the Church of the East, which first celebrated as a formal feast Mary's Dormition, or what we have come in the Church of the West to call 'the Assumption of Mary into heaven." No matter its history or whatever word(s) you use to describe this reality, this feast of Mary is precious and is cherished in our Latin Rite Roman Catholic Tradition.

We recognize as a sacred truth that Mary is the first of those who came wholly into God's presence. We believe this as it is an expression of our faith in the saving power of the resurrection of Christ. As Catholics, we recognize that all feasts, including feasts of Mary, are essentially celebrations of Jesus Christ. Does not Saint Paul tell us so when he writes: "Christ the first fruits; and then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ."

Our Gospel passage comes from the writings of Saint Luke who told us many stories of the birth and earliest life of Jesus. This story is very personal and poignant about Mary, the mother of Jesus and contributes much to our faith and understanding about Jesus and our understanding about Mary. We learn in this passage that it was by the gift of the Holy Spirit that Elizabeth recognized that the pregnant Mary was to be mother of "my Lord." Mary's response to Elizabeth's faith becomes what we now call the Magnificat. This prayer connects Mary back to another woman of faith to the mother of the judge Samuel. Mary's prayer belongs to the long line of great women of her race.

In many ways, Mary is also the crown of all women. We note that Mary blesses God, but on this day, we call Mary blessed. We celebrate her as the Mother of God and at the same time the one who also belongs to God. Our Church has specially honored Mary. The feast of the Immaculate Conception in very dark days of winter acknowledges and celebrates the beginning. In the very long sun filled days of our summer, we celebrate Mary as the one who conceived without sin and would bear witness to the sinless one, the Light of the world.

The highly dramatic Book of Revelation is our first reading We use this passage on this feast day to remind us to regard Mary as the triumphant one, clothed in the colors and surrounded by the creatures that connote the heavens—the stars, the moon. In fact Mary bore the child who would defeat all sin and evil. We acknowledge in this feast that Jesus is the one who would save the people from their sins. Thus we understand why Mary's Magnificat proclaims the mighty are cast off their thrones and the lowly are lifted up, that the hungry are filled and that the rich are sent away empty. The greatness of Mary magnifies the greatest of our God for us. We are a blessed parish to have Mary as our special Patroness.