Mary is Church's Pattern
Mary is First to Receive Glory
MARY IS CHURCH'S PATTERN
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Today the Church celebrates the Assumption of Mary most holy into heaven. The Lord has done "great things" (Lk 1:49), preserving from the corruption of death the woman who brought the world the Giver of life. The Second Vatican Council called upon her as "a sign of certain hope and comfort" (Lumen gentium, n. 68);
Thus Mary is resplendent as the "beginning and the pattern of the Church" (preface of the Assumption), already fulfilled in her person by virtue of Christ's paschal mystery, that saving destiny to which God calls every human creature from eternity. On their earthly pilgrimage, believers look to Mary, the "woman clothed with the sun" (Rev 12:1), as a bright star showing us the goal to strive for on our daily journey.
Her Assumption into heaven is not only the culmination of her particular vocation as the Mother and disciple of the Lord Jesus, but also an eloquent sign of God's fidelity to the universal plan of salvation aimed at the redemption of every man and of all men.
2. Femininity finds its full expression in Mary, Virgin and Mother, since the personal qualities that distinguish woman from man were able to be expressed in her in their full splendor. In looking at her, every woman can discern the authentic affirmation of her own dignity and value.
How could we not entrust to Mary, on today's liturgical solemnity, the women of the whole world, so that, conscious of their own vocation, they may generously make their indispensable contribution to every area of human advancement, especially to the defense of life? Through her intercession, may the forthcoming Conference in Beijing shed full light on the genuine values which every woman has to offer. Thanks to the constructive participation of all the delegations, a significant contribution will be made to the cause of woman and to her mission in the contemporary world.
3. The Solemnity of Mary's Assumption into heaven reminds us that Mary has returned to the Father's house in body and soul, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of peace towards which we are all journeying. This is the reason why the Church, which addresses the Mother of the Lord by the title of Queen of Heaven, also loves to invoke her with the fitting name of Queen of Peace. May she, Queen of the heavenly Jerusalem, abode of peace, constantly intercede with the Son for her children, pilgrims in history, so that the longed-for good of peace and harmony may spread to every corner of the earth.
May the Blessed Virgin protect all humanity; in particular, may she protect the victims of injustice, hatred and violence. May she obtain peace for the world and especially for the lands tormented by war. May Mary truly be a sign of certain hope and comfort for all.
Mary assumed into heaven, pray for us!
MARY IS FIRST TO RECEIVE GLORY
1. "A woman clothed with the sun".
On today's feast of the Assumption, the Church applies to Mary these words from the Revelation of St. John. In a certain sense, they tell us the end of the story of the "woman clothed with the sun": they speak to us of Mary assumed into heaven. Therefore, the liturgy rightly links them to the early part of Mary's history: the mystery of the Visitation in the house of St. Elizabeth. We know that the Visitation took place shortly after the Annunciation, as we read in the Gospel of St. Luke: "In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah" (Lk 1:39). According to a tradition this city was Ain-Karim. Having entered the house of Zechariah, Mary greeted Elizabeth. Did she want to tell her about what had happened to her, how she had agreed to the Angel Gabriel's proposal thus becoming, by the work of the Holy Spirit, Mother of the Son of God? Elizabeth however anticipated her and, under the action of the Holy Spirit, continued the greeting of the angelic messenger in her own words. If Gabriel had said: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you" (Lk 1:28), Elizabeth, as if taking over from him, added: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb" (Lk 1:42). Thus between the Annunciation and the Visitation the most common Marian prayer, the "Hail Mary", came to be formed.
Dear brothers and sisters, today, the feast of the Assumption, the Church returns in thought to Nazareth, the site of the Annunciation; she travels in spirit to the threshold of Zechariahs' home in Ain-Karim and greets the Mother of God with the words: "Hail Mary!", and together with Elizabeth, she proclaims: "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord" (Lk 1:45). Mary believed with the faith of the Annunciation, with the faith of the Visitation, with the faith of the night of Bethlehem and of Christmas. Today she believes rather, now in the glory of heaven, she contemplates face to face the mystery of which her existence on earth was filled.
2. On the threshold of Zechariah's home, the Marian hymn of the Magnificat also came into being. The Church repeats it in today's liturgy, because Mary certainly and with even greater reason must have proclaimed it on her Assumption into heaven: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed, for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name" (Lk 1:46-49).
Mary praises God and is praised by him. This praise has spread widely throughout the world. In fact, how many Marian shrines there are in every region of the earth dedicated to the mystery of the Assumption! It really would be difficult to list them all.
"Mary is taken up to heaven, and the angels of God shout for joy", proclaims today's liturgy in the Gospel acclamation. But men in every part of the world are also shouting for joy. And there are many nations that consider the Mother of God their Mother and Queen. The mystery of the Assumption is in fact linked to that of her coronation as Queen of heaven and earth. "The princess is decked with gold-woven robes"--as the Responsorial Psalm of today's liturgy proclaims (Ps 44 :13)--to be raised up to the right hand of her Son: "On your right stands the queen in gold of Ophir" (refrain of the Responsorial Psalm).
3. The Assumption of Mary is a special sharing in Christ's Resurrection. In today's liturgy St. Paul emphasizes this truth, announcing the joy for the victor over death achieved by Christ through his Resurrection. "For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death" (1 Cor 15:25-26). Victory over death, which became evident on the day of Christ's Resurrection, today concerns his Mother in a very special way. If death has no power over him--that is over the Son--neither has it any more power over his Mother, that is, over her who gave him earthly life.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul as it were makes a profound comment on the mystery of the Assumption. He writes thus: "Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ" (1 Cor 15:20-23). Mary is the first among "those who belong to Christ". In the mystery of the Assumption, Mary is the first to receive the glory; the Assumption represents as it were the culmination of the Easter mystery.
Christ rose again defeating death, the result of original sin, and with his victory he embraces all those who accept his Resurrection with faith. First of all, his Mother, freed from the inheritance of original sin by her Son's redemptive death on the cross. Today Christ embraces Mary, immaculate from her conception, receiving her into heaven in her glorified body, as if to hasten for her the day of his glorious return to earth, the day of the universal resurrection, awaited by humanity. The Assumption into heaven is like a great anticipation of the ultimate fulfillment of everything in God, in conformity with what the Apostle writes: "Then comes the end, when he [Christ delivers the kingdom to God the Father ... that God may be everything to everyone" (1 Cor 15:24, 28). Is not God everything in her, the Immaculate Mother of the Redeemer?
I greet you, daughter of God the Father! I greet you, Mother of the Son of God! I greet you, mystical Spouse of the Holy Spirit! I greet you, Temple of the Holy Trinity!
4. "Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple.... And a great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (Rev 11:19; 12:1). This vision in the Book of Revelation is considered, in a certain sense, as the last word in Mariology. However, the Assumption, which is magnificently expressed here, at the same time has its own ecclesiological meaning. It contemplates Mary not only as the Queen of all creation, but as the Mother of the Church. And as Mother of the Church, Mary assumed and crowned in heaven does not cease to be "involved" in the history of the Church, history of the struggle between good and evil. St. John wrote: "And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon" (Rev 12:3). This dragon is known by Sacred Scripture as the enemy of woman from the very first chapters of the Book of Genesis (cf. Gen 3:14). In the Book of Revelation the same dragon faces the woman who is about to give birth, ready to devour the child as soon as it is born (cf. Rev 12:4). We think spontaneously of the night of Bethlehem and of the threat to the life of the newborn Jesus as a result of the wicked edict of Herod who sent and "killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under" (Mt 2:16).
From the writings of the Second Vatican Council, the Mother of God's image emerges in a special way, deeply connected with the mystery of Christ and the Church. Mary, Mother of the Son of God, is at the same time Mother of all men who have become in the Son adopted children of the heavenly Father. It is precisely here that we see the constant struggle of the Church. Like a mother, and in likeness to Mary, the Church begets children to divine life, and her children, sons and daughters of the only-begotten Son of God, are constantly threatened by the hatred of the "red dragon": Satan.
While demonstrating the realism of this struggle which continues throughout history, the author of Revelation also stressed the perspective of the final victory by the Woman, by Mary who is our Advocate, who is the powerful ally of all the nations of the earth. The author of Revelation speaks of this victory: "And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, 'Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come'" (12:10).
The Solemnity of the Assumption puts before our eyes the reigning of our God and Christ's power over all creation.
5. Dear brothers and sisters, I would now like to address a cordial thought to all of you present here, parishioners of my Castel Gandolfo, parishioners of this parish where I become a fellow parishioner during the holidays. I affectionately greet Cardinal Angelo Sodano, my closest collaborator, titular Bishop of the Suburbicarian Church of Albano. I greet the Bishop of this diocesan community, dear Bishop Dante Bernini, who at this time is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination, his golden jubilee. I am pleased to extend my sincere wishes to him, while thanking him for his zealous and generous episcopal service. Next I greet the parish priest, thanking him for his words to me at the beginning of this celebration. I also gree the Salesian superiors and priests, and the faithful of the parish of Castel Gandolfo, so dear to me. Together let us praise the Mother of Christ and of the Church, together with all those who venerate her in every corner of the earth. How I wish that everywhere and in every language joy would be expressed for the Assumption of Mary! How I wish that this mystery would shed the brightest light on the Church and on humanity! May every man and every woman realize that they are called to share in the heavenly glory of their true Mother and Queen.
Every man and woman is called to share in this glory, as St. Irenaeus said: "Gloria Dei vivens homo; vita autem hominis visio Dei". These words express our personal vocation in the world and in the Church. Praised be Jesus Christ!
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