AUGUST 15, 2008, THE ASSUMPTION OF MOTHER OF GOD: LUKE 1:39–56
MY SOUL PROCLAIMS THE GREATNESS OF THE LORD. Mary of Nazareth, who was chosen by God to be the mother of the eternal Logos made flesh, spontaneously grasped that the word fulfilled in her was essentially the work of God himself, and consequently, witnessed to his glory. She understood her own surpassing dignity, so greatly enhanced by the Incarnation of the Son of God within her, as a reflection of the infinite glory of God. She acknowledges his favor as a gift for which she praises him, the God of Glory, faithful to his promises. This sharp awareness of God’s initiative in acting through her and the keenly felt joy arising from it found expression in her hymn of praise that we call the Magnificat. Today, as we commemorate her Assumption we join in her song of praise of God who has done great things in her and through her, on behalf of all of us who have hope in her son.
That Mary thought of herself as God’s humble servant is evident from her response to the angel: “Be it done to me according to thy word.” She remained faithful to the ordinary simple services given day by day quietly in loving response to the needs of her son. She understood that the hidden labor expended in serving was an incomparable source of dignity, of a greatness that gives strength to the spirit. Far from being the result of inferiority feelings, Mary’s humility is the fruit of her consciousness of a unique dignity conferred on her through God’s choice of her person as the mother of his son. Even before the message of the angel, Mary possessed a firm sense of worth, knowing that God had selected the people to whom she was born as his own possession, and shown his continuing favor to them. This awareness was the basis of the bold spirit she displayed in consenting to God’s plan for her and for his chosen ones. She knew the risks of consent, but trusted that God would sustain her. To conceive before she was married, without the knowledge of her promised husband, meant exposing herself to the rigor of the law against adultery. Yet consent she gave once it was clear to her that the Spirit of God himself was to effect the miraculous conception. Who would believe in such an unheard of happening? What a seemingly absurd story she would have to give to explain to others how she had conceived! Realizing the seeming impossible situation she would create for herself, yet she courageously accepted without hesitation.
That she was aware that boldness and confidence based on trust in God no less characterize Mary’s personality than her modest humility is clear from her Magnificat. In her hymn of praise Mary not only speaks of herself as lowly, but also of the greatness to which she is elevated: “God who is mighty has done great things for me. . . . he has raised the lowly to high places.” Moreover, she understands that she is a key figure in God’s victory over seemingly powerful enemies and expresses this conviction with striking confidence: “ he has confused the proud in their inmost thoughts. He has deposed the might from their thrones . . . while the rich he has sent empty away.”
We do well to advert to these features of Mary’s personality as well as to her lowliness of spirit before the majesty of God, for we too are confronted today with a choice that exposes us to the ridicule and even the hostility of a society that is increasingly insensitive to God’s intervention in creation and in human history, and critical of those who live by such faith. We know that such criticism is based on an ungrounded faith in what is immediately practical, what is demonstrable by science, and what is subject to the workings of technology. We are convinced that, by the birth of Christ through the Blessed Virgin Mary, God in fact has sent those who are rich in their own eyes away empty. We are confident that, at the appointed time, we too shall celebrate, in our risen bodies, the victory won by Jesus over all the enemies of true life and over death itself. And so, we boldly proclaim our faith in Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Mary, as we thank God today for her Assumption, body and soul, into his eternal presence. By means of this Eucharist may all of us together join our prayer with her song of praise; Magnificat anima mea Dominum. +
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger