August 14 – Vigil of the Assumption of Mary

When I was younger, I used to wonder why Mary was such a big deal. It wasn’t that I was against her or anything. I prayed Hail Mary’s to her, and I wasn’t out to deny anything our Church said about her. I just didn’t understand why we, as Catholics, honored her so much.

Some people say that Mary is no big deal, that she’s just another Christian.  They might point to today’s Gospel as evidence, where a woman from the crowd calls out to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that carried you, and the breasts at which you nursed.”  And Jesus replies, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” “So you see,” they would say, “it’s nothing special to be the mother of Jesus.” But in this Gospel Jesus is not denying Mary’s greatness, He is rather affirming it.

If Mary had merely been the biological mother of Jesus, delivering Him, and nursing Him, she might have been just another Christian. But Mary is most blessed among the disciples of Christ, of which she is the first, because she heard the word of God and observed it. She heard the word of God from the angel Gabriel and answered,

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.”

The overwhelming evidence for Mary’s exceptional glory, and her unique loveliness, is to be found throughout the Bible. The two Testaments, the Old, together with the New, show us why Mary is worthy of our great admiration and deserving of our special affection.

In the first reading we heard of the ark, the ark of the covenant, which you may remember seeing in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.  The ark was a wooden box, plated with gold inside and out, with two gold statues of winged angels on its lid.  This box, the ark, was carried about using two long polls, since men would be struck down if they touched the holy ark. The ark bore the presence of the Lord, it was His throne amidst His people.

The Lord had told Moses, who constructed the ark, according to the Lord’s precise specifications, to have some interesting things placed inside of it.  First, the wooden staff of Aaron, which had miraculously grown shoots and blossoms. Second, the two stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments which were written by God’s own hand. And third, an urn full of manna, the food which the Lord had given his people to eat during the Exodus.

That was the ark of the Old Testament.
Mary is the ark of the New Testament.

As the ark was a box of wood, plated with precious gold, inside and out, so Mary was a human being, surrounded and filled with divine grace. Like the dead wood of Aaron’s staff, which (naturally speaking) should not have borne life, the Virgin Mary miraculously blossomed life within her. Unlike the written word of God in stone, Mary carried within her the eternal Word of God in flesh. Mary borne within herself the true bread from heaven, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the first reading we heard how David led the ark of God’s presence into Jerusalem.  The ark’s coming to Jerusalem is also commemorated in the psalm we heard.  Jerusalem is sometimes poetically referred to as Zion, since Mt. Zion was the place of the temple in Jerusalem.

Just as the Lord’s presence came into Zion, the presence of the Lord came to dwell in Mary. Nine times out of ten, whatever Scripture says of Zion or Jerusalem, also goes for Mary. Mary is Jerusalem.  She is Zion.

“For the Lord has chosen Zion;”
says the Psalm
He prefers her for his dwelling.
Zion is my resting place forever;
In her will I dwell, for I prefer her.”

And, nine times out of ten, whatever can be said of Mary, also applies to Christ’s Church. Mary is the icon of the Church.

So, as you can see, Mary is a big deal. And none of us is more admirable, praiseworthy, and sweetly loveable than her.

‘Therefore her heart is glad and her soul rejoices,
her body, too, abides in confidence;
because God did not abandon her soul to the netherworld,
nor would He suffer His faithful one to undergo corruption.’

He assumed His beloved into heaven. Thanks be to God, who gave Mary this victory over death, through her Lord and ours, Jesus Christ.

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