Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Mary's Assumption into Heaven

Father John J. Lombardi

'A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head, a crown of twelve stars. She was with child…"-Rev 12: 1-2

And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints that had slept arose and coming out of the tombs…" (Mt. 27:52-53). "Mary, perpetually immaculate, the Virgin Mother of God, after the completion of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into the glory of Heaven" (Pope Pius Xii, 1946: Minificentissimus Deus).

Our ultimate happiness is the unification, harmony and spiritualization of the human body and soul. If we are saved and merit Heaven, our bodies and souls will be reunited like the Blessed Virgin Mary's. In Heaven, then, after the Last Judgment, we will not just be "floating" bodiless souls or spirits, but perfected embodied-spirits together. Originally, Adam and Eve were created perfectly, existing harmoniously in the Garden of Eden not only with God, but also with one another, and with the world--in perfect agility, beauty and love. This is called Original Justice and was lost, and now the result is our possible enmity with God, and chaos amongst the world and one another. Mary's Assumption shows us the Glory of God's Providential Design: that He is All-Wise and All-Knowing, and has a plan for our bodies and souls-to restore Edenic Paradise. But we humans sometimes have an alternative plan-sin, chaos, dissonance. God promises us a similarity to Mary if we cooperate with Him. If we are holy, faithful and righteous here on Earth, then we will become like Mary in heaven…but, Mary is unique. She has what is called a singular grace, as She received with the Immaculate Conception, which Pope John Paul is now celebrating during the 150 anniversary in Lourdes, France, August 15th.

On this Feast Day, let us consider: Ten Reasons to Believe in and Practice Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary:

1. She is the Mother of God: The Early council of Ephesus---defined Mary as Theotokos, which means, in Greek, literally, "God bearer". She bore, and gave birth to God. We Catholics do not worship Mary, we venerate her, as in "Hail Mary, full of Grace (Lk.1:28). Mary is not God, but, rather, she is the Mother of God. Some early Christians and Catholics (not unlike today) did not believe Jesus was God, but was only a creature and a "good guy." Therefore Mary was not Theotokos, the Mother of God. St Cyril of Alexandria and the Council of Ephesus (431) championed the title of Theotokos and therefore affirmed Jesus as Divine. We should be grateful to God and His saint-theologians who help us honor the Virgin and truly know that her Son was, is, Divine!

This doctrine, "Mary-as-Mother-of-God," is therefore, as much about God (Jesus' divinity) as it is about Mary. This is the highest and most majestic of all Mary's titles. Response: Attain an icon of Mary-as Mother, holding her Son, Jesus, and use it as a mirror of eternity. Penetrate the closeness of Mother and Son and how this can help you with parents, elders, others, and even spiritual intimacy with the Divine Trinity. 2. St. Athanasius, (296-373), great defender of Christ in His Incarnation, writes: "The archangel Gabriel did not speak 'what will be born from your body' but 'what will be born from you' so that we might know by faith that her child originated within her and from her."

As Pope John Paul says, the Virgin Mary contributed her very flesh to the humanity of God. Incredible! Mary contributes--in a subordinate-yet -sublime way, with Jesus, to redeem the world. +What are you giving of your body or soul to the Lord to help save souls and to further Jesus' Plan and Mission of Redemption? 3. Tenderness of Mothers: Aaron Neville, southern blues singer, loves the Virgin. In a New York Times story last year Neville is depicted as once steeped in drugs, down and out, depressed and losing it. Perhaps we've all been there. Then he heard the poem, "Lovely Lady Dressed In Blue," which helped him to undergo drug rehabilitation. He has been drug-free twenty years since.

Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue
Teach me how to pray.
God was just your little boy
Tell me what to say.
Did you lift Him up sometimes,
Gently on your knee.
And did you sing to Him
The way mother does to me.
Did you try telling Him stories of the world?
And, oh, did He cry?
Do you think He minds if I tell Him things,
Just little things that happen?
And do the angels' wings make a noise?
Can He hear me if I speak low?
Does He hear me now?
Lovely Lady dressed in blue,
Teach me how to pray.
God was just a little boy
You know the way
You know what to say.

At Aaron Neville's concerts are often nuns and priests. And "rope-rosaries" are handed out. Why? Because Neville loves Jesus and Mary and wants to witness on their behalf and how they can help others. Mary's tenderness helped save this blues-soul singer and continues now thru a new kind of Search and Rescue Mission. How are you witnessing the Rosary and other Marian devotions?

4. Mary's Beauty: Years ago I went on a pilgrimage with my mother. We saw the Pieta by Michelangelo--stunning in its realism and elegance…We then went to Poland and saw Our Lady of Czestochowa, the Black Madonna; and then saw Our Lady of the Presentation Church in Wadowice, Poland, where Pope John Paul and my mom's mom were baptized. All three holy sites were inspiring for their beauty and loveliness. In the Litany of Loreto, we pray: "Our Lady, most Beautiful, pray for us." We need Mary's beauty today in a world of horrors. Think of the war and suicide bombings in Iraq. Recall the Catholics being slaughtered in the Sudan by the Islamic government insurgents. Think of the thousands of starving children who die daily. Horrible. What "answers" or responds to these atrocities? Jesus and Mary. Of all the statues and art that are beautiful in the world that this priest has seen, few are more lovely than ours here in Corpus Christi Chapel on the Grotto Hillside, Our Lady Help of Christians. Mary as Immaculate Queen, regal and poised, (holding an orb signifying her reign as queen) is holding the baby Jesus. Both wear crowns signifying the Mystical Union and reigning friends. The beauty of Mary and Jesus help us to want, seek, adore the Unseen Beauty of God and help offset the ugliness of the world. Remember, When we see the beautiful we can become beautiful.

5. Madonna. This name, in Italian and Latin--Mia-donna, means "my Lady." It is an honorable way of saying, a lady: elegant, worthy of devotion and esteem. Women aren't always treated this way today, especially in a world of pornography, casual sexuality, prostitution and de-sacralization-the subtraction of holiness and degeneration of human form. Today men need ladies to be grace-filled and elegant embodiments of God's image, and the image, however so, of the blessed Madonna. Certain people have "hijacked" this term and are basically mistreating woman, making them by-products of lust and objects of desire. Oppositely: think of the loveliness of the varied and virtuous Annunciation paintings (Lk 1: 26-38) and how beautifully women can be treated, exalted and depicted. Dostoyevsky, the Russian writer in a ravaged world, said, somewhat near to truth: Beauty will save the world.

6. I once asked a young child, a singer in our Latin Schola, "Are you gonna' keep singing in our choir?" He paused and shot back, kid-like and therefore precious: "Well, sometimes I don't always feel like it; I'd rather be out playing with my friends, but, I can always play with them, so…I want to sing for the Blessed Mother…" It is beautiful and inspiring to witness the child-like affection for the Mother of God. St Anthony Mary Claret used to chant, child-like and consistently, this aspiration (a short prayer reverently repeated): "Mary: Virgin and Mother." That's it: Constantly. Onetime I buried a devout soul, Mary Catherine Smith, from St Anthony Church in Emmitsburg. You never heard of her in the news, but she was holy and child-like in her faith, which is what makes "eternal news". While she was dying in the hospital, on her lips was: "Jesus and Mary: I love you."

7. Some things only a Mother can do, like: give birth, mother, nurture and swaddle. St Paul says in Galatians that Jesus the Savior was born of a woman - (Gal 4:4). The word "woman" indicates here the oppositeness of Eve's disobedience. Eve means "mother of all the living". Mary is now Our Mother in heaven, Mother of All. At the Cross, Jesus said: "Son, behold your mother" (Jn.19:27), indicating, according to Tradition, that we are Mary's. Pope John Paul has suggested that in our love for Mary we are sensing the "feminine face of God." Thank your heavenly Mother, and your earthly mother, for all the tenderness, yes's and love that they were vessels of and for God.

8. Holy Families-Biblically Based: I was one time visiting some friends, the Antkowiaks (family of 9), and we discussed the controversial passage, Eph 5: 22: "wives be subordinate to your husbands..." It was Diane, mom and wife, who said that this is not oppressive but expressive of God's Will and Mary and Joseph's betrothal. The father-husband roles and submission are not oppressive or anti-modern-it rather puts more responsibility on the male and helps the female be complementary to the male, as Joseph and Mary were. Diane said the man is called to a "servant-leader" aspect of manhood, and shouldn't flinch from this. St Joseph was in his household-even with Jesus and Mary present! God does not break his own laws! Bernie and Diane are a beautiful example of a holy family. Because of their devotion and veneration of the Holy Family--biblically based--they are a holy family

9. Broken then Beautiful: At the Grotto I once met a Mom, daughter and two children who lived in a Baltimore shelter. Like the Holy Family, they hardly had any clothes or money, no job and plenty of challenges. They came to the Grotto years ago looking tattered and worn. They then returned this past ChristMass changed. Mom and daughter wearing bright, pretty dresses, son handsomely attired, smiles on their faces, eager to worship and fellowship. They had left the shelter, acquired a job and the kids got back in school and the entire family moved into an apartment. Like the Holy Family, from the brokenness of life, they became beautiful. Mom said, "We wanted to come to ChristMass Mass, and to give thanks to the Virgin." The Virgin's life was full of surprises, hardships and sacrifices--just like that homeless, single-parent Mom. How can you trust in your Heavenly mother to help you--Mary knew the way (Jn 14:6)--she will help you. Never give up.

10. Marian Interiority: Mary is often depicted with hands over heart ("She treasured all these things in her heart" -Lk 2: 19), and so she shows us she is Queen of Contemplatives. Though her world outside was topsy- turvy and perhaps confusing, she preserved her inside world (the one that counts). Our "new world order" is challenging and aggressive: a treadmill of externalized, tantalizing, seductive things, events and possessions to pull us out of our souls. But the practice of interiority, internal intimateness with the Indwelling Trinity can help us. Mary received, and then she gave. We need to do the same. She, as our Heavenly Mother, will show us the way of prayer and contemplation.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi