Taken Up to Heaven: Celebrating the Solemnity of the Assumption
User’s Guide to the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Sunday, Aug. 15, is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Mass Readings for Mass during the day: Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab; Psalm 45:10, 11, 12, 16; 1 Corinthians 15:20-27; Luke 1:39-56.
“God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple” (Revelation 11:19a). The readings for the Mass during the day of the Solemnity of the Assumption begin with a clear image of what this solemnity is about. The Blessed Virgin Mary, prefigured by the Ark of the Covenant of the Old Testament, now has the title of the “New Ark of the Covenant.” In the Old Testament, God’s presence dwelt within the Ark of the Covenant, and in Mary, God became incarnate and dwelt within her.
The first reading from the Book of Revelation (Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab) gives an image of the Blessed Mother giving birth to Christ who was “destined to rule all the nations” (Revelation 12:5). She is first imaged as “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars” (Revelation 12:1). When she is described as wailing aloud in pain in labor, we must not take that as her physical birthing of Jesus, as Tradition holds that she did not experience painful childbirth. Her pain is in her sharing in Christ’s suffering in bringing forth the birth of the Church, her part as co-redemptrix.
After giving birth in Revelation, the woman flees into the desert to the “place prepared by God” — a symbol of her life on earth longing for union with God in heaven, especially after the ascension of Christ.
The Solemnity of the Assumption is a joyful day, as we can imagine the reunion of the Blessed Mother with her Son. She is brought body and soul into heaven to the right hand of her Son — arrayed in gold, as we pray in the Psalm (see Psalm 45:10, 11, 12, 16). In gladness and joy she came into the presence of her Son, never to be apart from him again, to bask in the love of her Lord, whom she loved with her whole heart, mind, soul and strength.
The second reading (1 Corinthians 15:20-27) gives a theological explanation for how the assumption of the Blessed Mother is possible. While she was conceived without sin, her life free of sin was only possible because of her Son, who brought about the possibility of the resurrection of her body. Christ in his death and resurrection destroyed death. Because of her cooperation with God and his sacrifice, we can all be saved.
We can cry out to the Blessed Mother with Elizabeth in the Gospel on this solemnity, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42). Elizabeth shows us how to honor the mother of Our Lord, “who believed that what was spoken to [her] by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45).
And the Blessed Mother, in response to this praise, points to her Lord and God. She prays in humility, recognizing that “all generations will call me blessed,” not because of great worldly deeds, but because “the Almighty has done great things for me” (Luke 1:49).
She prays this without knowing how her life as Mother of God will be — she has not yet faced the real suffering that will be her lot.
Yet, on the Solemnity of the Assumption, we look to her in heaven, at her place near her Son, at the accomplishment of her faithful life on earth. We honor her and we pray for her to intercede to her Son for us to be blessed to believe in God’s promises to us and live in such a way as to join her in heaven.
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- susanna spencer
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