VATICAN CITY — On the Solemnity of the Assumption, Pope Francis said that in bringing Christ to the world, Mary also provides the joy and grace of her Son, which sustains us in difficulty.
“Carrying Jesus, the Madonna also brings us a new joy, full of meaning; she brings us a new ability to pass with faith through the most painful and difficult moments; she brings us the capacity for mercy, forgiveness, understanding and supporting one another,” the Pope said Aug. 15.
Mary, he said, “is the model of faith and virtue,” and in contemplating her assumption into heaven, we give her thanks “because she always precedes us on the pilgrimage of life and of faith.”
We are also able to ask that she “guard us and sustain us, that we may have a strong faith, joyful and merciful; that she help us to be holy, to meet her, one day, in paradise,” he said.
Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims present for a special Angelus address given for the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary Into Heaven, which is celebrated annually Aug. 15.
The dogma of the Assumption of Mary — also called the “Dormition of Mary” in the Eastern Churches — teaches that when Mary’s earthly life ended, God assumed her body and soul into heaven.
The Assumption was a widely held tradition even in the early centuries of the Church and was a frequent meditation in the writings of saints throughout the centuries. However, it wasn’t until 1950 that it was made an infallible teaching by Pope Pius XII in the apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus.
In his Angelus speech honoring the feast, Pope Francis turned to the day’s Gospel reading from Luke, in which Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is miraculously pregnant with John the Baptist, despite her advanced age.
He noted how when Mary arrived, having gone “in haste,” Elizabeth immediately proclaims the first words of the traditional Hail Mary prayer, saying “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
In this moment, the greatest gift that Mary brought not just to Elizabeth, but to the whole world, “is Jesus, who already lives in her,” Francis said.
“And he lives not only by faith and waiting. … From the Virgin Mary, Jesus took on human flesh for his mission of salvation.”
The Pope then noted how, preceding the encounter, Elisabeth and her husband, Zechariah, were filled with sadness by the fact that they couldn’t have children. However, in place of this, “now there is the joy of a child on the way: a child who will become the great John the Baptist, precursor of the Messiah.”
And when Mary arrives, this joy “overflows and bursts from their hearts,” he said, “because the invisible but real presence of Jesus fills all with meaning: life, family, the salvation of the people ... everything!”
Mary herself expresses this joy when she speaks the “stupendous prayer” of the Magnificat, which is “a song of joy to God who works great things through humble people, unknown to the world, like Mary herself, like her spouse, Joseph, and also like the village in which they lived, Nazareth.”
In off-the-cuff remarks, the Pope pointed to “the great things the Lord does in the world with the humble, because humility is like a void that leaves room for God.”
Humble people are “strong because they are humble, not because they are powerful,” he said and urged those present to ask themselves: “How is my humility?” and to reflect on the answer.
Francis said the Magnificat prayer is an expression of God’s mercy and fidelity, as well as his plan for salvation, which he carries out with “the little ones and the poor, with those who have faith in him” and trust in his word, as Mary did.
Jesus’ arrival to Elizabeth and Zechariah through Mary brings not only a climate of joy and communion, but also “a climate of faith which leads to hope, prayer and praise,” the Pope said, noting that the same thing can happen for each person today.
Francis closed his address by asking Mary to bring to each person and their families and communities “that immense gift, that unique grace which we must always ask for before and above all other graces that are also in our heart: the grace that is Jesus Christ!”
After leading pilgrims in the Angelus, the Pope offered a special prayer for all those who are suffering due to various global situations.
He entrusted to Mary and her intercession “the anxieties and pains of the peoples who in many parts of the world suffer due to natural disasters, social tensions or conflicts,” asking that she obtain for them “consolation and a future of peace and harmony!”
In addition to the various conflicts raging throughout the world, the Pope’s words come after one woman lost her life and several others were injured when a car rammed into a group of protesters at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend, adding fuel to what were already-escalated racial tensions in the United States.
The Pope’s appeal also comes as many South Asian and African countries such as India, Bangladesh and Sierra Leone face heavy flooding and mudslides, which so far have led to hundreds, if not thousands, of deaths.