Saturday, 15 August 2015

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary -- 15 August

Readings: Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6, 10; Ps 44; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26; Luke 1:39-56

Recent years have seen an explosion of interest in fantasy literature, in magic, stories of imagined worlds, other levels of living, other possibilities for human beings. From Harry Potter to science fiction, from Lord of the Rings to The Matrix, from The Chronicles of Narnia to stories about vampires, from Dr Who to many other films, television shows, and novels.

In one sense we can think of the assumption of Mary as nourishing this human desire, this thirst for another level of life that goes above and beyond routine, daily experience, above and beyond what is immediately available to something more mysterious, more interesting.

The first reading, from the Book of Revelation, presents us with a symbolic and dramatic story, apt to nourish the artistic and poetic imagination. The child just born is Christ, his mother is Mary or also the Church, the community of the followers of Christ, destined to travel a difficult road in this world, a raod rich with possibility but also dangerous, filled with obstacles. It is a fantasy, certainly, but a true fantasy if we can put it like that. It gives us an accurate diagnosis of the fortunes of the Christian believer in the world. It speaks of the promise which is our treasure as well as the difficulties of the way.

In the second reading Saint Paul teaches us that the new life, the life of the Resurrection, already given to Jesus in the moment of his rising from the dead - that this new creation, this new world, is not just for Christ but has been won by him for us. The great grace of the Christian faith is precisely this: to accept the promise of a level of living, of a possibility, that goes above and beyond even our imagination. Once again it is the assumption of Mary that gives us the guarantee of this, that the new creation is not just for Christ but is also for all who belong to him, in the first place to Mary, but eventually for all his people.

In the gospel we hear the great prayer of Mary, the Magnificat, praising God for his many gifts. Mary, an historical and particular individual, a unique individual, is full of grace. It is also a symbol of the Church, of us also who are with her in the Church. We can say that Mary is the Church in its perfection. She symbolises this perfection and realises it. And she does this not just as an 'idea' or 'symbol' but as the historial, flesh and blood, particular human individual that she was and is.

Already in this world we can see the first signs of this new creation, sparks we might say of the glory that is to come. Wherever there is compassion, or work for justice, care of the poor, unexpected generosity, faithful love, the initiative and creativity of charity - in all of this we see the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Gift of God, the Source of all God's graces.

The clear revelation of all this is yet to come. For now our thirst continues since we must continue our pilgrimage in this world. But we do so in the hope of the Resurrection. We do so strengthened and encouraged by the grace and the prayers of Mary, already assumed into heaven.

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