Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
15 August 2010
Mary, Queen of Heaven, pray for us!
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At the first Mass of our newly ordained priest, Fr. Scott Wallisch, at the St. Lawrence Center at KU, Fr. Scott gave his mother a gift. It was the maniturgium, the white linen cloth used to wipe off the excess chrism oil from his recently anointed hands. Fr. Scott's hands had just been anointed to offer the holy sacrifice of the Mass, to confect through those hands the body and blood of Jesus for the redemption of many people. Yet as a symbol, Fr. Scott gave this cloth to his mother to indicate not only his gratitude to her for his life and for his faith that he received from his mom, but also to indicate that he wished any fruits from his priesthood to first be given to her. The maniturgium is a sign that of all the people that Fr. Scott wishes to save through his priesthood, he wishes first for his mother to be saved, and he wants of all people to see in heaven, for his mother to be the first he sees. In this, the priest imitates Jesus in a special way, who honored his own mother as we see in today's Solemnity of the Assumption. The maniturgium is sometimes referred to as his mother's ticket to heaven. It is oftentimes laid in the coffin with the mother at the time of her burial.
St. Paul tells us that the fruits of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead will first be given to those who belong to Christ. Today's solemnity of the Assumption of Mary body and soul into heaven indicates the truth of what Paul is writing to the Corinthians. In Christ, everyone will be brought back to life, but each in the proper order, until the last enemy death, is defeated. Mary from the moment of Her own conception received the fruits of her Son's resurrection, and was always growing younger in faith, hope and love throughout her life, and her Assumption body and soul into heaven shows that the last enemy, death, has been defeated, not only by Christ but by Mary who is the first member to arrive in heaven body and soul. We say that Mary did not die as much as she fell asleep, at the time of the Assumption of her body into heaven.
The solemnities of Mary are so important to us as Catholics, because they teach us something about Christ and also something about ourselves. The assumption teaches us that Christ loves his mother, and honors her role in the history of salvation, and of all people, he has chosen to give her life body and soul in heaven, from which she reigns as queen of heaven and earth. The solemnity also teaches us something about ourselves, who by nature are closer to Mary than we are to Christ. Mary is the one most like us in the order of redemption, for hers was a simple human nature like ours elevated by God's grace. Just as in the order of nature a mother is closer to her child than the father is, since she carries the child in her womb and then nurses the child, so also in the order of our redemption and salvation our mother Mary is closer to us by definition than God the Father. God the almighty Father deigned that we be brought into eternal life by a mother, just as we were born into this world through a mother. Today's assumption proclaims that the mother of Jesus given by Him to be our mother at the foot of the cross, is now also our mother in heaven. She is the new Eve, the mother of all those who will live for ever.
In the papal crest then of the late Pope John Paul II was a symbol indicating that the sure way to Christ is through Mary. His papal motto was totus tuus mariae. All is yours Mary, or you are everything Mary. In promoting devotion to Mary, the Holy Father is only trying to bring us into a deeper and more lasting relationship with Her Son. Of course, on this Marian feast, we are preparing once again to be perfectly joined to Jesus as we eat his body and drink his blood. The Eucharist is a perfect communion with Jesus, by definition. It is the way that he desired us to become one heart, one flesh with Him, who is the source of our redemption. Yet the Holy Father is wise to teach us that it is possible to receive the Eucharist without fruitfully receiving Jesus, if we do not have the humility and faith and readiness and receptivity of Mary. The pope teaches that it is only when we are first like Mary, and when we are close to her and allow her to be our Mother, that we are ready to receive Her Son as she did.
Imitating the humility of Mary is the most powerful weapon we have in our own spiritual battle. It is also the most powerful weapon in the world. Today's feast of the Assumption shows Mary to be victorious over the fiercest of dragons. Even though she endured many hardships in this world, she never stopped trusting in God and in His promises, nor waiting for his grace to be enough for her. Mary is powerful. She is raised high above every principality and power. She is the queen of heaven and earth. She wishes to obtain for us her children from her Son the grace to be victorious in our own battle against sin and death. In her apparitions, she encourages us to keep praying, to keep fasting, to keep going, for she is with us on the path to victory. Let us celebrate with great joy, then this solemnity of her assumption, and ask her to truly be our mother on earth and in heaven.