Egyptian Coptic icon in the Church of St Menas, Cairo
Anglicans and Roman Catholics who love Our Lady must be grateful for the final document of ARCIC-II "Mary - Grace and Hope in Christ." Mind you, I think that the document does contain echoes of the theological paranoia not unknown in some Anglican traditions, as well as a slightly skewed interpretation of our history in relation to Marian theology. It is as if the Anglican representatives at that time on ARCIC-II were either prejudiced against or ignorant of the growing evidence for belief in "the Marian dogmas" of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption in the Anglican tradition . . . I suspect the latter. That having been said, however, it is significant that in Section 78 the ARCIC-II document is able to affirm:
- the teaching that God has taken the Blessed Virgin Mary in the fullness of her person into his glory as consonant with Scripture, and only to be understood in the light of Scripture (paragraph 58);
- that in view of her vocation to be the mother of the Holy One, Christ's redeeming work reached 'back' in Mary to the depths of her being and to her earliest beginnings (paragraph 59);
- that the teaching about Mary in the two definitions of the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception, understood within the biblical pattern of the economy of hope and grace, can be said to be consonant with the teaching of the Scriptures and the ancient common traditions (paragraph 60);
- that this agreement, when accepted by our two Communions, would place the questions about authority which arise from the two definitions of 1854 and 1950 in a new ecumenical context (paragraphs 61-63);
- that Mary has a continuing ministry which serves the ministry of Christ, our unique mediator, that Mary and the saints pray for the whole Church and that the practice of asking Mary and the saints to pray for us is not communion-dividing.
We have just celebrated Our Lady's great day, when she, having come to the end of her earthly life, was taken up "body and soul" into heaven. It is a day for celebration, for music, art, poetry, and - in some places - even fireworks! It is a celebration that as one of us, by God's grace, Mary shares fully in the victory of her Son over death, a victory that we, too, will fully experience in the General Resurrection on the last day. The Assumption of Our Ldy reminds us of the profound sense in which the task of all our theologies - even papal pronouncements - is to "catch up" with the instinctive convictions of the Church down through the ages. That was the case historically, in terms of this Solemnity, and it is certainly the case for Christians journeying from an "anti-Marian" perspective to the fulness of faith in our time.
So, today, I simply want to share with you some quotes that might enrich your meditation.
ST JOHN OF DAMASCUS (d. 749)
"On this day the sacred and life-filled ark of the living God, she who conceived her Creator in her womb, rests in the Temple of the Lord that is not made with hands. David, her ancestor, leaps, and with him the angels lead the dance."
BISHOP THOMAS KEN (1637-1711)
Heaven with transcendent joys her entrance graced,
Next to his throne her Son his Mother placed;
And here below, now she's of heaven possest,
All generations are to call her blest.
HANS URS VON BALTHASAR (1905-1988)
From: You Crown the Year with Your Goodness: Sermons through the Liturgical Year, 186, 190-191
What . . . is the Church celebrating today? That a simple human body, inseparably united to its soul, is capable of being the perfect response to God’s challenge and of uttering the unreserved ‘Yes’ to his request. It is a single body – for everything in Christianity is always personal, concrete, particular – but at the same time it is a body that recapitulates all the faith and hope of Israel and of all men on earth. Consequently, when it is taken up into ultimate salvation, it contains the firm promise of salvation for all flesh that yearns for redemption. For all our bodies long to participate in our ultimate salvation by God: we do not want to appear before God as naked souls, ‘not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life’ (2 Corinthians 5:4); and God, who caused bodies to die, ‘subjecting creation to futility’, has subjected it ‘in hope’ that it ‘will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God’ (Romans 8:20f). So we are celebrating a feast of hope; but, like all the New Testament feasts, it is celebrated on the basis of a fulfillment that has already taken place.; that is, not only has the Son of God been resurrected bodily – which in view of his life and death, is quite natural – but also has the body that made him man, the earthly realm that proved ready to receive God and that remains inseparable from Christ’s body. Today we see that this earth was capable of carrying and bringing to birth the infinite fruit that had been implanted in her. Today we celebrate the ultimate affirmation and confirmation of the earth.
GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS (1844-1889)
From: The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe
'Through her we may see him
Made sweeter, not made dim,
And her hand leaves his light
Sifted to suit our sight.'
DR ERIC MASCALL (1905-1993)
From: The Dogmatic Theology of the Mother of God in The Mother of God, E.L. Mascall ed. (London: Dacre Press, 1949), p. 43
The relation of Mary to the Church is (as the modern logicians would say) the relative product of two more fundamental relations. The first of these is Mary's relation to her Son; he is still man and she is still his mother. The second is his relation to us and to the Church; we are his members and the Church is his body. Therefore Mary is our mother and we are her children by adoption into her Son. This is not an exuberance of devotion but a fact of theology.
JOHN DE SATGE
From Mary and The Christian Gospel p. 79
Surely it is possible to think of her Assumption as the end of the great Pauline series (Romans 8:28-30 Cf. 1 John 3:2). Mary, the woman whose predestination has been advanced to its full term of conformation into the image of God's Son and hers; Mary who was called and who responded totally; Mary who was justified and rejoiced in her salvation; Mary who has been glorified? If it may be so taken, and Mary may be seen as the one of us who has already 'got there', then it gives great force to the insistence of the Vatican Constitution that Mary is a sign of sure hope and solace for the wandering People of God; and it makes her a splendid trophy of the Gospel's grace and power.
HERBERT O'DRISCOLL (b. 1928)
From: Portrait of a Woman, quoted in Mary in the Church ed. John Hyland Veritas Dublin 1989, p. 93
When the vast repository of beauty and terror which we call Christian tradition, the corporate memory of all Christians before me, tells me of Mary's virginity, of her immaculate conception, and of her assumption into heaven, I believe that truths have been preserved for me which, though I cannot fully explain them nor define then, I neglect to my loss.
PREFACE FOR MARY, MOTHER OF THE CHURCH
From: The Roman Missal
" . . . Raised to the glory of heaven,
she cares for the pilgrim Church with a mother's love,
following its progress homeward
until the day of the Lord dawns in splendour . . ."
CHRISTINA ROSSETTI (1830-1994)
From: All Saints'
From: Jerusalem and all its Citizens
They have brought gold and spices to my King,
Incense and precious stuffs and ivory :
O holy Mother mine, what can I bring
That so my Lord may deign to look on me?
They sing a sweeter song than I can sing,
All crowned and glorified exceedingly:
I, bound on earth, weep for my trespassing,
They sing the song of love in heaven, set free.
Then answered me my Mother, and her voice
Spake to my heart, yea answered in my heart:
“Sing, saith He to the heavens, to earth. Rejoice:
Thou also lift thy heart to Him above:
He seeks not thine, but thee such as thou art.For lo His banner over thee is Love.
From: Jerusalem and all its Citizens
Who is this that cometh up not alone
From the fiery-flying-serpent wilderness,
Leaning upon her own Beloved One?
Who is this?
Lo, the King of kings' daughter, a high princess,
Going home as bride to her Husband's Throne,
Virgin queen in perfected loveliness . . .
Who sits with the King in His Throne?
Not a slave but a Bride,
With this King of all Greatness and Grace
Who reigns not alone:
His Glory her glory,
where glorious she glows at His side
Who sits with the King in His Throne.
She came from dim uttermost depths
which no Angel hath known,
Leviathan's whirlpool and Dragon's dominion worldwide,
From the frost or the fire to Paradisiacal zone.
Lo, she is fair as a dove, silvery,
Is Very Love; to Whom all Angels sing;
To Whom all saints sing crowned, their sacred bandSaluting Love with palm-branch in their hand . . .