ILLUSTRATIONSCOMMENTARY

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

MARY IS OUR STAR OF HOPE

In pre-Christian times, the pagan religions of ancient Greece and Rome had a very interesting insight into the human soul.     Some of their myths described how great heroes from past ages used to do battle with the gods, either physically or through a contest of wits.     And when a human being won such a battle, one’s reward would be to avoid death and hell (there was no belief in heaven) by being turned into a constellation of stars in the night sky.    By becoming a constellation, one achieved a kind of immortality, because the divine stars, so they thought, never change.     In that way, one would also  inspire and guide future generations, because the stars were used to guide ocean navigation before the invention of the compass.     This charming ancient sentiment was purely mythological and legendary, but it appealed to artists and poets for many centuries.   It seemed to be in harmony with a basic human instinct: the instinct for Heaven, and they felt the need for help to get there.

When Christianity came around, this image from pagan poetry found its true fulfillment.     The Blessed Virgin Mary, a human being just like you and me, conquered evil, with the help of God’s grace, through her humility and obedience undoing the ancient sin of Eve.  And God rewarded her by assuming her, lifting her, into Heaven.    And from Heaven, she is an inspiration and guide for us who are still traveling through the troubled waters of life on earth. And so, from very early times, the Church began to call Mary, the “Star of the Sea”, “Stella Maris” [in Latin]. (Adapted from Pope Benedict XVI). (E- Priest).

CARL JUNG ON THE ASSUMPTION

Carl Jung Depth Psychology Reading Group (10:33)

It was in 1950, that the famed Lutheran Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, an influential thinker and the founder of Analytical Psychology, remarked that the Papal announcement of the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, in 1950, was “the most important religious event since the Reformation.” (Storr, p. 324).

The Assumption means that, along with the glorified masculine body of Jesus in Heaven, there is also a glorified feminine body of Jesus’ mother, Mary.  According to Jung, “bodily reception of the Virgin into Heaven” (Ibid.) meant that “the Heavenly bride was united with the Bridegroom,” (Ibid., p. 322) which union “signifies the hieros gamos” [the sacred marriage], (Ibid.) Acknowledging that the Assumption “is vouched for neither in Scripture nor in the tradition of the first five centuries of the Christian Church,” Jung observes that:  “the Papal declaration made a reality of what had long been condoned.  This irrevocable step beyond the confines of historical Christianity is the strongest proof of the autonomy of archetypal images.” (Storr, p. 297).

Jung remarks that “the Protestant standpoint . . . is obviously out of touch with the tremendous archetypal happenings in the psyche of the individual and the masses, and with the symbols which are intended to compensate the truly apocalyptic world situation today.” (Ibid., pp. 322-323) Jung added: “Protestantism has obviously not given sufficient attention to the signs of the times which point to the equality of women.  But this equality requires to be metaphysically anchored in the figure of a ‘divine’ woman. . ..  The feminine, like the masculine, demands an equally personal representation.” (Ibid., p. 325)

[Quotes from : Jung, C. G.  Modern Man in Search of a Soul; translated by W. S. Dell and C. F. Baynes. (Princeton, New Jersey: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers, San Diego. 1933); and Storr, Anthony (Ed.).  The Essential Jung. (Princeton University Press, 1983).]
LIFE MESSAGE FROM FR. TONY

Mary’s Assumption

#1: Mary’s Assumption gives us the assurance and hope of our own resurrection and assumption into Heaven on the day of our Last Judgment. It is a sign to us that someday, through God’s grace and our good life, we, too, will join the Blessed Mother in giving glory to God. It points the way for all followers of Christ who imitate Mary’s fidelity and obedience to God’s will.

#2: Since Mary’s Assumption was a reward for her saintly life, this feast reminds us that we, too, must be pure and holy in body and soul, since our bodies will be glorified on the day of our resurrection.  St. Paul tells us that our bodies are the temples of God because the Holy Spirit dwells within us.  He also reminds us that our bodies are members (parts) of the Body of Christ.

#3: This feast also gives us the message of total liberation.  Jesus tells us in John 8:34 that everyone who sins is a slave of sin, and St. Paul reminds us (Gal 5:1), that, since Christ has set us free, we should be slaves of sin no more.  Thus, the Assumption encourages us to work with God to be liberated from the bondage of evil: from impure, unjust and uncharitable thoughts and habits, and from the bonds of jealousy, envy, and hatred.

#4: Finally, it is always an inspiring thought in our moments of temptation and despair to remember that we have a powerful heavenly Mother, constantly interceding for us before her Son, Jesus, in Heaven. The feast of Mary’s Assumption challenges us to imitate her self-sacrificing love, her indestructible Faith and her perfect obedience.

Therefore, on this feast day of our heavenly Mother, let us offer ourselves on the altar and pray for her special care and loving protection in helping us lead a purer and holier life.

Fr. Tony’s 8-minute Homily in 1 page

BODY, SOUL, OR BOTH?

Today’s feast also shows us that God values our bodies. They are not only important to Him – they are sacred! There are two extremes of thought in regard to our bodies. One considers the body as our number one treasure. Ads and commercials usually feature people with exceptional looks. To be successful, accepted, and loved, they tell us, depends upon how we look. We are to watch our weight, keep in shape, and smell just right. If we don’t pamper our bodies and treat them royally, we’ll be social, business, and sexual flops. Nobody will want us around. As for the importance of our soul and our spiritual life? Forget it! They consider such things nonexistent and absurd. The other extreme of thought about the body is to look upon it as merely a machine for us to operate in this world. Its value is only its usefulness. To enhance it with cosmetics and perfume, to dress it up and make it look attractive, to diet, exercise, and look at it in the mirror – all that is not only a waste of time, but sinful. The soul and its spiritual condition are all that is important for us. We are to think of our body only when necessity requires.

But God is telling us on this feast of the Assumption that to Him, both are important – our body and our soul. They are both to be valued, and they are to be given the attention and honor due them. (Fr. Jack Dorsel)

GOD HELPS THOSE WHO HELP THEMSELVES

If you are watching television and want a dish of ice cream, you aren’t going to have any unless you get up, go to the kitchen and scoop it up yourself. If you are in a movie theater and decide you want some popcorn, you aren’t going to get any unless you go to the lobby and buy it. Or are you one of those people who have someone waiting on them hand and foot? Are you one of those capable people, by that I mean one who is not an invalid, who expect to be waited on when they want something? Well, if you are, I’ve got some shocking news for you. That sort of thing is not going to work with God. I’m sure you’ve heard, “God helps those who help themselves.” However, these words do not praise the selfish and self-centered; rather, they refer to those who try to do their duty, who try to help others, who try to live the teachings of Christ, For those people, God will take it from there and perfect the results of their efforts, if not here, at least in the next life.

The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, spent her earthly life trying to carry out the will of God. Her Son crowned her efforts by drawing her into Heaven with Himself and perfecting her body into the likeness of His. Thus, we say, Mary was assumed into Heaven. (Fr. Jack Dorsel)

STRETCH OUT YOUR FRYING PAN

Two men went fishing.     One man was an experienced fisherman; the other wasn’t.     Every time the experienced fisherman caught a big fish, he put it in his ice chest to keep it fresh.     Whenever the inexperienced fisherman caught a big fish, he threw it back.    The experienced fisherman watched this go on all day and finally got tired of seeing this man waste good fish.     “Why do you keep throwing back all the big fish you catch?” he asked.     The inexperienced fisherman replied, “I only have a small frying pan.” Sometimes, like that fisherman, we throw back the big plans, big dreams, big ideas, and big opportunities that God sends us, because our Faith is too small.

We laugh at that fisherman who didn’t figure out that all he needed was a bigger frying pan; yet how ready are we to increase the size of our Faith? God has big hopes for us – Assumption-sized hopes.     Seeing how His hopes for the Blessed Virgin Mary were so wonderfully fulfilled should help increase our Faith.    It should stretch out our frying pan.     As the angel Gabriel said to Mary long before her glorious Assumption, “nothing is impossible to God” (Lk 1:37). [Frying pan story adapted from Hot Illustrations, copyright 2001, Youth Specialties, Inc.] (E- Priest).

View More Homily Starter Anecdotes compiled by Fr. Tony

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

THE CHURCH’S DOGMA

The Feast of the Assumption is one of the most important feasts of our Lady.  Catholics believe in the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven. We believe that when her earthly life was finished, Mary was taken up, body and soul, into Heavenly glory, where the Lord exalted her as Queen of Heaven. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 966).  The Assumption is the feast of Mary’s total liberation from death and decay, the consequences of original sin.  It is also the remembrance of the day when the Church gave official recognition to the centuries-old belief of Christians about the Assumption of their Heavenly Mother.  In the Orthodox Church, the koimesis, or dormitio (“falling asleep”), of the Virgin began to be commemorated on August 15 in the 6th century.  The observance gradually spread to the West, where it became known as the feast of the Assumption.  By the 13th century, the belief had been accepted by most Catholic theologians, and it was a popular subject with Renaissance and Baroque painters.  It was on November 1, 1950, that, through the Apostolic Constitution Munificentimus Deus, Pope Pius XII officially declared the Assumption as a Dogma of Catholic Faith.  On this important feast day, we try to answer two questions:  1) What is meant by “Assumption?”  2) Why do we believe in Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, despite the fact that there is no reference to it in the Bible?  “Assumption” means that after her death, Mary was taken into Heaven, both body and soul, as a reward for her sacrificial cooperation in the Divine plan of Salvation.  “On this feast day, let us thank the Lord for the gift of the Mother, and let us pray to Mary to help us find the right path every day” (Pope Benedict XVI).

The first and third readings are about women and God’s creative, redemptive, and salvific action through them.  The Book of Revelation, written in symbolic language familiar to the early Christians, was meant to encourage them and bolster their Faith during times of persecution.

FIRST READING

First Reading

In the first reading, the author of Revelation probably did not have Mary of Nazareth in mind when he described the “woman” in this narrative.  He sees the “woman” as a symbol for the nation and people, Israel.  She is pictured as giving birth, as Israel brought forth the Messiah through its pains. The woman is also symbolic of the Church, and the woman’s offspring represents the way the Church brings Christ into the world.  The dragon represents the world’s resistance to Christ and the truths that the Church proclaims.  As Mary is the Mother of Christ and of the Church, the passage has indirect reference to Mary:

According Fr. Reginald Fuller (Center for Liturgy) there are three possibilities: 1. She is the old Israel, the nation from whom the Messiah came. Much in this passage suggests the old Israel waiting for the birth of the Messiah. The Old Testament background suggests this (see Isaiah 66:7). According to this view, the seer is taking up and partly Christianizing earlier pictures of Israel waiting for the coming of the Messiah. 2. The woman is the Church, the new Israel, the mother of the faithful. This is supported by Rv 12:17, which speaks of other children belonging to the woman who “keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.” 3. The woman with the Blessed Virgin Mary: An interpretation popular among medieval expositors and revived in a somewhat more sophisticated form in recent Catholic exegesis (and clearly accepted by the choice of this passage for this feast), equates the woman with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Probably there is no need to choose among these three interpretations. For Mary is the daughter of Zion, the quintessential expression of the old Israel as the community of Faith and obedience awaiting the coming of the Messiah, the community in which the Messiah is born. But she is also the quintessential expression of the new Israel (the Church), of those who “believe” and are justified on the grounds of their faith, of those who obey his word and who suffer for the testimony of Jesus,

B)Navarre Bible CommentaryThe description of the woman indicates her heavenly glory, and the twelve stars of her victorious crown symbolize the people of God—the twelve patriarchs (cf. Gn 37:9) and the twelve apostles. And so, independently of the chronological aspects of the text, the Church sees in this Heavenly woman the Blessed Virgin, “taken up body and soul into Heavenly glory, when her earthly life was over, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords (cf. Rv 19:16) and conqueror of sin and death” (Lumen Gentium 59)

C) Fr. Munachi E. Ezeogu, CSSP: The description of a ‘woman clothed with the sun’ is imagery linked to a goddess in classical antiquity. Traditional commentaries identify her as Mary the new Eve, but she could also stand for Wisdom personified, the Heavenly Jerusalem, or the Church. She also stands for Israel, whose pangs of birth represent the trials to be endured before the coming of the Messiah. The dragon, God’s traditional opponent in the Hebrew Scriptures, is an ancient symbol of chaos and all the forces of evil opposed to God. 

SECOND READING

Second Reading

The second reading, taken from I Corinthians, is Paul’s defense of the resurrection of the dead, an apt selection on the feast of our Heavenly Mother’s Assumption into Heaven.  In the Magnificat, the song of Mary given in today’s Gospel, Mary acknowledges that “the Almighty has done great things” for her. Besides honoring her as Jesus’ mother, God has blessed her with the gift of bodily Assumption.  God, who has “lifted up” His “lowly servant” Mary, lifts up all the lowly, not only because they are faithful, but also because God is faithful to the promise of Divine mercy.  Thus, the feast of the Assumption celebrates the mercy of God, or the victory of God’s mercy as expressed in Mary’s Magnificat. As the new Eve, Mary shares intimately in the fruit of the redemption and so is assumed body and soul into Heaven.

GOSPEL READING

Gospel Reading

Scripture on Mary’s death and Assumption.

Although there is no direct reference to Mary’s death and Assumption in the New Testament, two cases of assumption are mentioned in the Old Testament, namely, those of Enoch (Gn 5: 24) and Elijah (2 Kgs 2:1).  These references support the possibility of Mary’s Assumption.  The possibility of bodily assumption is also indirectly suggested by Mt 27:52-53 and I Cor 15:23-24.  In his official declaration of the dogma, the Pope Pius XII also cites the scriptural verses Ps 131:8, Sg 3:6, Rv 12, Is 61:13 and Sg 8:5. “Although the New Testament does not explicitly affirm Mary’s Assumption, it offers a basis for it because it strongly emphasized the Blessed Virgin’s perfect union with Jesus’ destiny. This union, which is manifested, from the time of the Savior’s miraculous conception, in the Mother’s participation in her Son’s mission and especially in her association with his Redemptive sacrifice, cannot fail to require a continuation after death. Perfectly united with the life and saving work of Jesus, Mary shares His Heavenly destiny in body and soul. There are, thus, passages in Scripture that resonate with the Assumption, even though they do not spell it out.” ( (Pope St. John Paul II; quoted by Jimmy Akin, “The Assumption of Mary: 12 things to Know and Share” Blog, August 15, 2017).

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