User’s Guide to Sunday
By Tom and April Hoopes

Sunday, Aug. 15, is the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Liturgical Year C, Cycle II).

Pope Benedict XVI will be venturing out from Castel Gandolfo, his summer residence, to say 8am Mass at the Church of St. Thomas of Villanova. He’ll offer a noon Angelus at Castel Gandolfo.

Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6, 10; Psalm 45:10, 11, 12, 16; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26; Luke 1:39-56

Our Take
It’s interesting to note in today’s first reading just why Satan rebelled. The reading describes the great dragon in the sky sweeping stars down with his tail. The whole chapter includes more details about how a “war broke out in heaven.” The Fathers of the Church note the cause of that war: The notion of the Incarnation was a step too far for the rebellious angels.

But notice that it’s not just the thought of God becoming man that provokes them: It’s the sign of the woman. This image represents both the Church and Our Lady. What threw a match into that hornets’ nest isn’t just the Baby Jesus — but the extent to which human beings will be blessed by Christ.

It seems that what the demons objected to was the role in God’s saving action given to human beings, in the Church — and in a particular way in the Blessed Mother.

This is interesting from a number of different perspectives. Three that leap to mind:

First, pride is the damning vice. If only the rebellious angels could have accepted that God’s will for humankind had a new special character, they could have spent their eternity in much better circumstances. Instead of being tortured by their fate, they could have been in awe of God’s love, as the other angels were.

It’s the same way with us. We have the choice of being enraged by our circumstances, bitter at having to suffer the indignity of having a car or house or job that isn’t as nice as someone else’s. Or we can simply be in awe of the fact that God loves his creation and has encircled us in his love.

Quick tip: To help stay in the right camp, say the prayer Mary does in the Gospel reading today: the Magnificat.

Second, know who you are. While the story of the fall of the angels is a warning against pride, the flip side is also true: Human beings have been greatly blessed, so radically altered and bettered, that certain angels in heaven couldn’t stomach the thought of it. Don’t ever forget that. Through no merit of our own, we have been raised and, as the Fathers of the Church put it, “deified” by the Incarnation. Through our baptism, we have been incorporated in the life of the Trinity in a way the angels can’t dream of.

That God did this with mere humanity is shocking. But that he did it is certain. It would be insane to trade the great dignity God has given us for the cheap trappings of sin the devil offers us in its place. We would literally be trading eternal glory in heaven for junk.

The feast of the Assumption, celebrating the passage of Mary, body and soul, into heaven is precisely the feast celebrating our true destiny.

Last, the feast of the Assumption reminds us who won. There’s a wonderful passage in the Catechism speaking about the Our Father that sums up salvation history and reminds us of the reality of the devil and the reality of the victory, represented by the Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s a dense passage but well worth reading:

“Victory over the ‘prince of this world’ was won once for all at the hour when Jesus freely gave himself up to death to give us his life. This is the judgment of this world, and the prince of this world is ‘cast out.’ ‘He pursued the woman’ but had no hold on her: The new Eve, ‘full of grace’ of the Holy Spirit, is preserved from sin and the corruption of death (the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Most Holy Mother of God, Mary, ever virgin). ‘Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring.’ Therefore the Spirit and the Church pray: ‘Come, Lord Jesus,’ since his coming will deliver us from the evil one” (No. 2853).

Pope Paul VI said the fight against the devil was the greatest fight of our times. This feast of the Assumption, pray to Mary to strengthen the Church as this battle continues.

Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas, where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.