Assumption Vigil

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Non-Catholics oftentimes accuse Catholics of worshipping the Blessed Virgin Mary.  We should always make the clarification that we do not worship anyone, save God alone: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  We, Catholics, hold Mary in a very special place of honor because she was the chosen Mother of God’s only begotten Son.  He Who was with the Father from all eternity, took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary in order to free us from sin.

After that distinction has been offered, the non-Catholic might go on to point to today’s Gospel passage in order to show that the fact that Mary was Jesus’ Mother is not a reason to show her honor.  The woman in today’s Gospel held that she was blessed merely because she bore Jesus in her womb.  Jesus corrected the woman and said: “Blessed, rather are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”  Of course Mary did hear the word of God and observe it.  At the Visitation, as soon as the Virgin Mary’s greeting reached Saint Elizabeth’s ears, Elizabeth was “filled with the Holy Spirit” and cried out in a loud voice and said: “Most blessed are you among women . . . blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  (cf. Luke 1:40-45) Mary’s greatness is based on her great faith and obedience to God.

Not only is there nothing wrong with showing honor to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mary, herself, says in Luke chapter 1: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior . . . behold, from now on all ages will call me blessed.”  (cf. Luke 1:46-48)  Mary said “yes” to the will of God in her life and because of her “yes” our God became flesh dwelt among us.  Through Mary’s “yes” the promises that God made throughout the Old Testament to send a Redeemer, were fulfilled.

The early Church Fathers saw in the Blessed Mother the fulfillment of many of the Old Testament signs and types.  One of the Old Testament parallels comes from the first reading this evening.  Many of the early Church fathers saw the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant.  In the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was a golden box which contained three things: the stone tablet of the Law (the Ten Commandments), some left over Manna (that miraculous bread which the Israelites ate while in the desert), and the rod of Aaron, who was the first High Priest.

Each one of these things contained in the old Ark pointed prefigured, or forward to Jesus Christ.  Once Mary said “yes” to God and conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, she contained within her womb the fulfillment of what was contained in the Ark of the Old Covenant.  Jesus is the living Word of God.  Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Manna: He, Himself, said: “I am the True Bread come down from Heaven.”  Jesus is also the eternal High Priest of the New and everlasting Covenant.  Mary is seen as the New Ark because she contained within her the Living Word of God, the True Bread come down from Heaven, and the eternal High Priest of the New Covenant.

There are further parallels.  David brought the Ark to the place that he prepared for it in his own city.  While David was bringing the Ark to the city it took a detour and ended up staying in the hill country of Judah for three months.  The Blessed Mother stayed for three months in the hill country of Judah during her Visitation to Saint Elizabeth.  While in the hill country of Judah, David cried out before the Ark: “How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?”  Saint Elizabeth, during the Visitation of Mary, the New Ark, cried out: “How does this happen to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?”  David’s joy for the Ark caused him to dance joyfully before the Ark.  When Mary’s greeting reached Elizabeth’s ears, Saint John the Baptist, leaped for joy in the womb of his mother.  (cf. 2 Samuel 6 with Luke 1)

Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant: that is why the Church gives us the Psalm that it does today: “Lord, go up to the place of Your rest, You and the Ark of Your holiness.”  The Church sees the Assumption of Mary into Heaven as the fulfillment of that Psalm.  We know that the Lord has Ascended into Heaven and He has taken His Ark, His Mother with Him: body and soul.

If we understand the parallel that Saint Luke makes in his Gospel between the Ark of the Covenant and the Blessed Virgin Mary, we can than better understand the vision that Saint John described in the eleventh and twelfth chapters of the book of Revelation.  At the time that Saint John was writing of the vision that he had, the Ark of the Covenant had been lost for quite a long time.  At the end of chapter 11, Saint John says that He saw the Temple in Heaven opened, and there he saw the Ark.  Any Jewish readers of his day would have perked up their ears: they would have wanted to know about the Ark that had so long been lost and sought after.  The next sentence goes on to describe a woman, clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.  A Jewish reader might wonder: what happened to the Ark.  We know that Saint John is describing the Ark: Our Lady is the Ark.

All of these ideas have been very abstract.  I, personally, find them to be very interesting.  As I was coming into the Church, I loved learning about the Church Fathers and the ways that they interpreted Scripture.  The Mary/Ark parallel is still one of my favorites.  There is a reality behind all these ideas, that we should not lose sight of: The Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of Our Lord, and she is our Mother.  She reigns in Heaven at the right hand of her Son, where she makes constant intercession for us her children.  Her greatest desire is to see us perfectly united with her Son.

We, here in this parish dedicated to her honor, ought to have constant recourse to her motherly intercession.  She is a Mother ready at every moment to assist us in our day-to-day lives.  Let us turn to her often and with great confidence.  Lord Jesus Christ, we thank You this day for giving us Your Mother to be our Mother as well.  May we always remember to call upon her in all our needs, and through her powerful intercession may we be drawn ever closer to You.  Amen.

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