WelCom August 2021
A magnificent tribute to faith
This year, the Assumption of Mary is being rededicated as the patron of the Church in Aotearoa New Zealand. Formally declared a dogma of the Church in 1850, the Assumption was the cornerstone chosen by our first bishop, Baptiste Pompallier, to protect, strengthen and guide the new foundation. A Mass and ceremony led by Cardinal John Dew at St Mary of the Angels church, Wellington, on 15 August 2021, will mark the rededication.
“Blessed is she who believed that the promise made to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
These words from Elizabeth as she welcomed Mary into her home, offer a perfect summary of why the mother of Jesus is held, within the Catholic Church, to be the highest honour of the human race.
The visit between these two expectant mothers, recorded in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke, gives us a picture of Mary that makes her assumption into heaven the most logical outcome of her life on earth.
“The Assumption of Mary is, for all believers, a magnificent call to hope.”
Elizabeth blesses Mary for her faith, her deep trust that what, to her, seemed impossible was possible for God.
She gave her ‘Yes’ to the promise that her virginity would not be an obstacle to her conceiving and giving birth to a child sensing, if not fully appreciating, she was entering a mystery that would profoundly influence the future of all humankind.
Suspicion and gossip
She put herself in God’s care, risking and facing suspicion and gossip, and even separation from her beloved Joseph.
To spare Mary social condemnation, Joseph decided to end their betrothal until he was encouraged in a dream to stand by her. He did this most faithfully, easing the pain in Mary’s heart, accompanying her of her journey.
Elizabeth praises Mary as ‘most blessed’ among women and recognises her as ‘the mother of my Lord’. There is recognition, too, from Elizabeth’s unborn child who ‘leapt for joy’ in her womb at Mary’s arrival.
The chapter in Luke also gives us Mary’s response in the prayer that has become known as The Magnificat.
Praising God ‘who has done great things for me’, Mary extols the holiness of God and God’s concern for the poor and lowly, the powerless. Her prayer echoes the prophecies spoken long before her time and she is overwhelmed by the vision of God’s mercy.
A popular statue honouring Mary, reflects words from the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation (Chapter 12): A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun and the moon beneath her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
The ‘twelve stars’ are most often understood as representing the twelve apostles, but they could also represent the twelve months of the year. This assigns not only the sun and the moon but all of time to Mary and, as Queen of heaven and earth, the inevitability of her assumption becomes clearer.
Elizabeth acknowledged the ‘otherness’ of Mary, greeting her as ‘the mother of my Lord’. That the Word of God became flesh in Mary’s womb, makes her closer to God than any of us. She is an intimate partner with God in restoring creation to its original dignity and the end of her earthly life could not possibly end in decay.
The Assumption of Mary is, for all believers, a magnificent call to hope. Mary, a human person, just like you and me, enjoys life in its fulness beyond the life we live today. In this belief, the trials and difficulties as well as the joys and achievements of this life, are given a context and perspective to greatly help our understanding.
Mary, mother and friend, through your Assumption draw us closer to God. Pray for us.
James B Lyons is a priest of the Archdiocese of Wellington.