AUGUST 15, 2004
HOMILY - APOC. 12:1-6, 10

NOW A GREAT SIGN APPEARED IN HEAVEN: A WOMAN, ADORNED WITH THE SUN, STANDING ON THE MOON, AND WITH TWELVE STARS ON HER HEAD FOR A CROWN. The majority of scholars interpret the literal sense of this passage to refer to the Church persecuted at the time these words were written. The author depicts himself, in fact, in the early lines of this book, as exiled for his faith in Christ Jesus, thus situating his work in a time of suffering. The Church in her liturgy, however, uses these words of Mary whose Assumption into the glory of Godís presence we celebrate at this Eucharist. In making this application of the text, to be sure, she is faithful to a venerable tradition that has strong support of many of the faithful, notably all those who belong to the Legion of Mary.

 In fact, St. Bernard, rather surprisingly for us in modern times, states that a text that is used in the churchís liturgy has a stronger assurance of its applied meaning than in the original context. Our spiritual father, St. Bernard, did not speak of Mary with great frequency, but when he did comment on her place in the history of salvation, he was usually one of her best devotees. Here is what he had to say in a sermon to his monks concerning the place she occupies in Godís plan of salvation for the whole of our human race.

Consider more carefully, my brothers, with how much loving affection the one who put all the fullness of good in Maria wanted her to be honored. If there is any hope in us, if any grace, if any salvation, we know that it flowed out to us from her who ascended possessing all kinds of delightsÖ With the whole of our heartís tenderness, with the affections of our whole breast and with all our desires let us honor this Mary, for such is the will of him who has willed us to have all through Mary (Sermon 2 on the Mother of God).

As is evident from Bernardís words, Mary is held is such honor for the reason that God chose to send his own Son into this world through Maryís cooperation. In another of his talks Bernard states this explicitly: the fulfillment of Godís plan depended on Maryís free consent. When she gave it, the Son of God, who is the eternal Logos through whom all things are made, took flesh of Mary. The Gospels make this abundantly clear. To honor Mary is to acknowledge Godís wisdom and mercy, for it is through her that the fulfillment of his redemptive plan was made possible. It is only through the foreseen merits of her son that she was enabled to find the faith and courage to assent to such a great and challenging role so that the honor we pay to her is, at the same time, a recognition of the merits obtained by the Lord Jesus, her son, through his passion and death.

St. Paul taught that Christ Jesus is the New Adam and constructed his theology of redemption on this foundation. ďFor, if by the transgression of one man death ruled through the one man, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:17). The conviction grew that Mary, who was so intimately associated with him became the New Eve, as Pius XII affirmed in his 1950 decree declaring her Assumption to be certain and an article of faith (Mediator Dei, 27, 30 and 37). As a consequence she shared in the fullness of grace and life that her son merited by his resurrection and ascension. Her Assumption, body and soul into the Presence of God in the light of glory is the fulfillment of her role as the Mother of those who live the true and eternal life of the redeemed. Her bodily glorification anticipates our own at the end of time.

Confident in the efficacy of her loving prayer on our behalf, let us honor her by imitating her faith and fidelity to her son and his teaching. The monks and nuns of our Cistercian Order from early time honored her and trusted in the protection of her prayer. Let us continue in that same spirit and persevere in glorifying God for the great things he has brought about through his son, our Lord and redeemer, who came to us through Mary with whom he is united in glory, even now and for all eternity.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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