Before I begin, I would like to begin – by saying that it is a misunderstanding to consider Our Lady’s
Assumption and her Coronation as two separate events. That kind of puts her Coronation as a kind
of an afterthought of God, or a ‘Surprise Party’. It was far from it and this is beautifully expressed in
the Prayers, Songs and Readings for this Solemnity. Her entrance into Heaven was an ‘Epiphany’,
a manifestation of her glorious identity as “Queen of Heaven and Earth, and of all the Angels & Sts”.
(This is Alan’s ‘Assumption’)
ASSUMPTION + OF OUR LADY
Dear Brothers , It’s with good reason that we celebrate here today! This is, of course the Anniversary of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven; we commemorate her, the Patroness of all the monasteries of the Cistercian Order. It is also an anniversary of a member of this community (Br Columban) who entered the monastery on this date. It’s also an anniversary for three monks – who made Simple and Solemn Vows on this date (namely – Frederic, Gerlac and Alan, it’s the 60th for Gerlac) and three more who made Solemn Vows (Michael, Joachim and Christopher) – and one Ordination – that took place here 50 years ago today. That event caused the members of my extended family – and some in this community – to grasp the truth of Jesus’ words: “With God all things are possible!”
For all of us, this day provides the occasion to render special homage to the person who – after Christ Himself – is the most influential in our earthly lives: Mary of Nazareth, the Mother of God, who, on the day of her Assumption, body & soul, into Heaven, was at once honored as “ Queen of Heaven and Earth and of all the Angels and Saints”! She was together again with Jesus and Joseph!
“Mary has been taken up to Heaven! Let us rejoice!” This is the theme that constantly recurs throughout the Liturgy of this beautiful Solemnity. There is an allusion to Mary’s Assumption in the First Reading (Rev.), which refers to the Ark of God being taken up to the place that had been prepared for it – where it was honored with a joyful liturgical celebration. Mary is the ‘Ark of God’ in the new Covenant; she carried the Holy One, God’s self-revelation, the source and center of the new creation. The Second Reading also, contains an allusion to Mary. In this Reading, Christ, having conquered death, is seen as the first- fruits of the world to come – and Mary…. has been traditionally regarded as a first- flowering of the Church. Christ is the New Adam, Mary – the New Eve, the Mother of us all.
There is, however, no explicit mention of Mary’s Assumption in the readings today – nor is such to be found anywhere in the Bible. Rather, the justification for the Assumption is to be found in tradition. This Feast is actually the ’oldest’ feast of Our Lady, being a development of an earlier feast – ‘the Falling Asleep of Mary” a feast which for a long time in the early centuries of the Church was associated with the Basilica of Gethsemani – (The Church of the Nations) in the Holy Land. Even today, some 50 yards from that church is a shrine the Orthodox Church regards as the place where Mary ‘fell asleep’!
The chief aspect of today’s Solemnity is, however, the glorification in body and soul, and the entrance of the Mother of God into heaven. Mary’s Assumption symbolizes our belief in bodily resurrection and life everlasting. We believe that, although we shall all one day die – we shall all, God willing, eventually be raised up together with all the saints – to join Mary and her divine Son in heaven for all eternity.
That we honor Mary – without explicit scriptural basis – is not, as is sometimes claimed, a subordination of God, a mistrust of Christ, or the deification of Mary…..for all her gifts come from God and from Christ. She is by no means divine; but by God’s goodness, she has been chosen and disposed to give us divine gifts. She is more powerful than other saints, because she stands closer to God and is more closely united with the Lord.
The “Magnificat” or “Song of Mary” heard in today’s Gospel, recounts what has been called – “The Pentecost of the Infancy Gospel”. It’s quite rightly called – the most profound passage about Our Lady in all of Scripture; it reveals the special position of Mary in the Bible and in the Church. She is seen as the perfect fulfillment of Old Testament spirituality. Her last recorded words in scripture are almost a reiteration of her initial “Fiat”….but they are directed to us. At Cana, she said – “Do whatever he tells you.” – which is to say, in effect – ‘Let it be done to you according to his word’
Our Lady counted her blessedness as a gift from God who had done great things for her. Like Mary, we also need to acknowledge God’s wonderful works in our lives – some of them done indeed – in this very church of Gethsemani – acknowledge with humility, gratitude and joyful hearts!
— Dear Brothers, being a member of this Community, of the Abbey of Gethsemani – is such a great and unique Gift! Imagine, contemplate; there are over 7 Billion humans like ourselves – in the world today . We are truly privileged to be called here! GIVING THANKS, GRATITUDE – IS THE VERY NATURE OF THIS PLACE !
We now prepare ourselves to participate – at our Savior’s command – in the Banquet that dwarfs the miracle of Cana – that brings us a foretaste of that Eternal Banquet which Our Lady NOW enjoys with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – as Queen of Heaven and Earth and of all the Angels and Saints! AMEN! THANKS BE TO GOD!!
Fr Alan (Br Mary Alanus)
“Many hurdles” Dom James (our former Abbot) wrote me a note after the ordination and complimented me on having overcome “many hurdles”! I wondered just what he meant..and then recalled that – Rome, until quite recently, did not consider Lay Brothers to be monks. Also, according to Cistercian tradition, Lay Brothers could never become Clerics (“ Choir Religious” or Priests). There may have been other hurdles , that as Abbot he would have known about, but not I.