The twelfth century Cistercian Bernard of Clairvaux tells us in a sermon for today’s feast that the whole universe waited with bated breath, so to speak, for Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel’s announcement that she was to become the mother of God, “Son of the Most High.” Not only eight hundred years ago did this feast captivate the greatest of Christian hearts and minds, Christians of the East and West have celebrated it for more than 1500 years. It is the completion and crowning of all Marian feasts. The Holy Spirit has been poured upon the faithful, and so we have an instinct for the truths of faith. We can celebrate Mary’s Assumption through the lens of her Son’s ascension.

St. Paul says that Jesus ascended “that he might fill all things” – Eph 4: 10. Christ’s departure was not to be with a distant God but to become one with his Father who is present everywhere, especially at the core of our existence. Jesus had told his disciples that he would be going away from them and they would be sad – John 15: 5. If we lost Jesus as a person walking the earth, we gained him in spades through the ascension – in a new intimacy, penetrating our very being. Something similar is true of Mary’s Assumption.

Jesus’ ascension was victory not just for Jesus alone. Through his ascension he drew near to us all. And this conquest is first shared, naturally, with his mother. All the texts – prayers and readings etc. – for today’s feast are about victory. This victory is over every form of alienation and separation, not just of distance but of sin and misunderstanding and, above all, death. Nothing can now come between us and God. May this sharing in Christ’s victory by Mary give us all the confidence to reach out to those from whom we have become estranged, whether by neglect, misunderstanding or failure.

“There is a beautiful passage from St. Gregory the Great (6th cent and St. Benedict’s biographer) on St. Benedict that can be applied to Mary too. St Gregory says that the heart of Benedict  expanded so much that all creation could enter it. This is even truer of Mary: Mary, totally united to God, has a heart so big that all creation can enter this heart….she has a heart as great as the heart of God” – Pope Benedict XVI

Fr QQ  – 0/12/2023


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