Wednesday, August 15, 2018

For The Feast Of The Assumption

     Mary of Nazareth, the Virgin Mother of Jesus, is little mentioned in the Gospels after the years of Jesus’s childhood and maturation. Her last recorded statement occurs at Cana, during the wedding there: “They have no wine.” After that she is mentioned but no further words from her are recorded.

     Yet we know that she followed Jesus to Calvary and attended His execution at the foot of His cross. We also know that she lived several years more, largely without public engagement, and that the Apostles remained devoted to her. When she passed away her body was buried in the fashion customary in that time and place. However, shortly after her interment her grave was found empty.

     It was not until the early Nineteenth Century visions of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich that the Church elected to take Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven under consideration as a doctrine:

     In the night I saw several of the Apostles and holy women praying and singing in the little garden in front of the rock-tomb. A broad shaft of light came down from heaven to the rock, and I saw descending in it a triple-ringed glory of angels and spirits surrounding the appearance of Our Lord and of the shining soul of Mary. The appearance of Jesus Christ, whose wound-marks were streaming with light, moved down in front of her soul. Round the soul of Mary, in the innermost circle of the glory, I saw only little figures of children; in the midmost circle they appeared as six-year-old children; and in the outermost circle as grown-up youths. I could see only the faces clearly, all the rest I saw as shimmering figures of light. As this vision, becoming ever clearer, streamed down upon the rock, I saw a shining path opened and leading up to the heavenly Jerusalem. Then I saw the soul of the Blessed Virgin, which had been following the appearance of Jesus, pass in front of Him, and float down into the tomb. Soon afterwards I saw her soul, united to her transfigured body, rising out of the tomb far brighter and clearer, and ascending into the heavenly Jerusalem with Our Lord and with the whole glory. Thereupon all the radiance faded again, and the quiet starry sky covered the land.

     I do not know whether the Apostles and holy women praying before the tomb saw all this in the same manner, but I saw them looking upwards in adoration and amazement, or throwing themselves down full of awe with their faces to the ground. I saw, too, how several of those who were praying and singing by the Way of the Cross as they carried home the empty bier turned back with great reverence and devotion towards the light above the rock-tomb.

     Thus I did not see the Blessed Virgin die in the usual manner, nor did I see her go up to heaven; but I saw that first her soul and then her body were taken from the earth.

     [From The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Anne Catherine Emmerich]

     It is largely on the strength of this account by a highly regarded Catholic mystic that on November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII proclaimed that the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary would henceforth be considered a dogma of the Church. It was the second proclamation of a dogma under the doctrine of papal infallibility in Church history. No other has occurred since then.

     The Catholic Church has had many detractors from other Christian denominations. Some of these have attacked the Church specifically on the matter of the Blessed Virgin, accusing the Church as treating Mary to a divine status that belongs to God alone. Catholics’ veneration of Mary as the highest of the saints, and the Church’s treatment of the critical events in her life as worthy of commemoration and celebration, have attracted negative reactions that range from demurral to outright condemnation. But nothing evokes as much derision or ire as the last two of what Catholics call the Glorious Mysteries: Mary’s bodily Assumption, and her Coronation as Queen of Heaven.

     It’s a mystery to me. A woman was found worthy to bear the Son of God made flesh. No other human woman was so graced. Surely Mary is entitled to special consideration on that basis alone. When we add her submission to the will of God as expressed to her by the Archangel Gabriel despite the terrible dangers to which it would expose her, her faithful devotion to her Son in the face of the unspeakable tragedy about which she had been forewarned, and her importance to the Apostles after Christ’s Ascension, dismissing her as “just another saint” becomes impossible.

     No, Mary is not divine. But she is special. Moreover, if anyone could validly claim to have her Son’s ear, it would be His mother. Thus Catholics rely upon the Blessed Mother for influence with Jesus, and – horror of horrors! – pray directly to her on those subjects with which a mother is most intimately concerned, that she might endorse them with her Divine offspring.

     And those who call the Catholic Church the Whore of Babylon for daring to venerate Mary specially and look to her for guidance and intercession can kiss my bleeding Roman Catholic ass.

     It’s long been a frustration to me that so few of Mary’s statements are recorded in canonical Scripture. Surely she had things to say, especially to her Son, whose upbringing was principally her responsibility. But the little that we’ve been told is supplemented by the Emmerich visions and other not-quite-canonical works such as The Protoevangelion of Saint James.

     However, we can be absolutely certain of some things. From what we know of Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, His Incarnation in the flesh, and Mary’s endlessly patient nature, we can be absolutely sure that whatever she might have said to Him, there’s one thing she definitely did not say:

“Wait till your father gets home!”

     And may God bless and keep you all.

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