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
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).]
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.