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The solemnity of the Assumption

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In this last month of summer, I pray that, sustained by God’s grace, you will be renewed through prayer, rest and time with family. Yet, we cannot deny that loneliness, anxiety, uncertainty and even despair have arisen out of the coronavirus pandemic, and anger over acts of racial violence. The unique challenges that each of us faces are stark reminders that we are “pilgrims in a strange land, tracing in trial and in oppression the paths that (our Savior) trod” (Vatican II, “Lumen Gentium,” 7). During this difficult time, we look forward with renewed hope to the upcoming solemnity of our loving Mother.


On Aug. 15 we celebrate God’s wondrous work of bringing Mary, Mother of his Son and our Mother, into heavenly glory. We celebrate our belief, solemnly defined by Pope St. Pius XII in 1950, that “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory” (Pius XII, “Munificentissimus Deus,” no. 44). It is a belief firmly rooted in church tradition.


The church has venerated the Blessed Virgin Mary since its beginning. While sacred Scripture does not provide details about the end of Mary’s life, early on the church expressed the belief that God brought Mary, body and soul, into eternity. Mary’s Assumption has long been celebrated in the church’s liturgy, and saints down the ages reflected on its meaning for Christian life. Through this prayer and reflection, the church understands Mary’s Assumption as the completion of Elizabeth’s greeting, “Blessed are you among women” (Lk 1). In her Assumption, the divine promise that those who follow Christ will share in his resurrection is fulfilled (1 Cor 11). By her Assumption, Mary lives with God in eternity — crowned with stars, clothed in the sun, the moon under her feet (Rv 11).


Our Blessed Mother stands as Queen in heaven, arrayed in gold. God gave her this honor because in her own pilgrimage she remained always close to him through Jesus Christ. When the Blessed Virgin was vulnerable and in need of physical care, she met uncertainty as she was turned away at the inn. When her family was threatened, she fled with them into a foreign land, lacking the stability of home and usual work. When she could not find Jesus on the return from Jerusalem, she felt concern for her beloved child. When she stood by the cross, she endured the unjust oppression and crucifixion of her only son at the hands of those with earthly power. Yet throughout this journey, Mary trusted in God and remained close to her son. By God’s grace she followed the steps of her Savior, and so she received a share in his resurrection.


For this reason, Aug. 15 we venerate Mary as “the beginning and image of (the) church’s coming to perfection and a sign of sure hope and comfort to (God’s) pilgrim people” (preface, solemnity of the Assumption). We, the pilgrim church on earth, are an important part of her story. On this earth, and especially now, we walk through a wilderness of pain, fear, rejection, distress and uncertainty. Nevertheless, Mary is a sign of hope and comfort that if we remain close to God in the trials and oppression of this earthly pilgrimage, our sufferings will be united to Christ’s so that, like our Mother, we may be glorified with him (cf. Vatican II, “Lumen Gentium,” no. 7).


The solemnity of the Assumption is a day to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary and give praise with the angels and saints for her heavenly reward. It is also a day to rest and pray along our pilgrim way so that we may be refreshed in body and spirit for the journey that still lies ahead. Therefore, in a special way during this challenging summer, I invite all of the faithful to respond to the twofold call of honoring Mary and seeking renewal in God’s grace.


We can begin to celebrate the Assumption by praying with sacred Scripture. When we meditate on Scripture, we allow God to speak through the texts to us. Find one of the stories of Mary in the Gospels that speaks to you in your life today, perhaps one of those I mentioned above. How does Mary respond to her earthly situation, how does she remain close to God through Christ Jesus, and how can your Mother be a model as you make a similar journey in your life today?


On the day of the solemnity, rest and pray. Holy days are meant to be days of rest, joy and hope. Connect (safely!) with family. Without dismissing the challenges we are facing, stay positive this day. Share stories of small joys from this summer and express your hopes for the months ahead. Also, pray. Although the ongoing pandemic continues to make participating at Mass in person difficult or even impossible for some, we are all called to take time out of our day to pray. Whether in church or at home, united as one body, one spirit in Christ, we all offer the same hope-filled prayer through the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church: “that, always attentive to the things that are above, we may merit to be sharers of her glory.”


Assumption of Mary novena


Bishop Michael F. Burbidge invites the faithful to recite a novena Aug. 6-14 leading up to the solemnity of the Assumption of Mary with special intentions for health care workers, those affected by the coronavirus pandemic and those who have died from COVID-19. 

Go to arlingtondiocese.org/assumption-novena.






© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020