Showing posts with label Assumption. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Assumption. Show all posts

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Our Lady Mary's great day!

This is the richly decorated ceiling of Santarém Cathedral, Portugal, 
built in the 17th century and featuring 
the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

Today is one of the truly GREAT days of the Church’s year. We celebrate the Blessed Virgin Mary “our tainted nature’s solitary boast"(Wordsworth) coming to the end of her earthly life and being reunited with her Son, Jesus, sharing the completeness of his resurrection victory. 

In 1996 at All Saints’ Wickham Terrace, Brisbane, we recorded our High Mass of the Assumption. Sadly, although we paid for professional expertise, the result was unusable because the microphones were too close to the organ pipes. The following year (1997) just before Mass began, as an afterthought I turned on my pocket dictation recorder and put it near a window well away from the organ. The result isn’t professional, and it’s scratchy in places. But not long ago I found the tape and converted it to digital format. It does capture the atmosphere of our celebration, and I’ve put a link to it below, mainly as a treat for those readers - now literally all over the world and in all sorts of churches - who were part of our parish community in those days. Enjoy a trip down Memory Lane! The Mass is sung to Schubert's "folk setting", his Deutsche Messe. You will hear the historic T.C. Lewis organ (before its restoration), as well as the stringed instruments. The readings and other inaudible parts of the recording have been edited out. I am the celebrant, David Barkla the organist and director of music, and Churchwarden Lorraine Hines reads the Prayers of the Faithful. Click on the link:

The following paragraph from the Preface for the Mass of Our Lady, Mother of Divine Hope, is a perfect reflection for today, as it so beautifully expresses the way we now see our relationship with the Lord’s Mother:

Mary, the fairest fruit of Christ’s redeeming love
is a sister to all the children of Adam
as they journey toward the fulness of  freedom
and raise their eyes to her,
the sign of sure hope and comfort,
until the day of the Lord dawns in glory.

In Mary Daughter of Sion, Lucien Deiss explains how Mary is a “prefiguration” of the Church:

There can be no doubt that the idea of divine protection is what John is evoking when he writes that the Woman flees into the wilderness unto her place. In her flight away from the serpent, the Woman does not wander about at random, but on the contrary, she seeks refuge in a safe haven, in the place that God has prepared for her. 

It is interesting to note that the verb to prepare is the one usually found in those texts which refer to the eschatological realities that God is making ready for the faithful. As a matter of fact, the expression to prepare a place, in the only other instance that it does occur in John, will be found in a similar context:

In my Father’s house there are many mansions. Were it not so, I should have told you, because I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again, and I will take you to myself; that where I am, there you also may be.

These ideas manifestly recall what we read in the Apocalypse: Christ is returning to his Father, a reference, most certainly, to the mystery of his passion, resurrection, and ascension, namely, the very mystery of his own Exodus, his passage from this world to the Father.

Here again Mary is a prefiguration of the Church. The place in the wilderness that is prepared for the Church conjures up the image of the eternal dwelling-place into which she enters on the morning of her Assumption. 

In reascending to his Father, the Child was preparing a place for the disciples who make up Mary’s second posterity. Without waiting for the Day of the general resurrection, his mother is awarded her share in his destiny At the same time she is also the prefiguration of what in the normal course of events has been reserved for the end of the world, when the pilgrim Church will be assumed into the glory of the new Jerusalem. 

Mary stands in the vanguard of the Church on its march toward the kingdom. In her, the desert Church that is still battling against the Dragon has already reached the shore of eternity. In her, she already contemplates, in joy and peace, the eternal face of God.

And these words from Kairos Magazine, (Melbourne, Aust, Volume 20, Issue 14) express the same truth in a different way:

Our response to God has not been as whole-hearted as Mary’s, but we too, like her, have borne the Son of God in our hearts. We have received him in the gift of the Eucharist and we are the bearers of his promise that “those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day” (John 6:54).

In celebrating Mary’s assumption into heaven we do not celebrate something which places Mary apart from us. Rather we celebrate something which places Mary among us as the first to receive the gift of salvation in all its fullness, a gift which the Lord also holds out to us. May this woman, given to us by Christ as our mother, be our companion on our journey of faith. May she, through her prayers and her presence in our lives, accompany us until we share with her the joy of salvation, body and soul, in the glory of heaven.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Assumption . . . Dormition . . . of Our Lady

Now, THIS is a bit different! It is a Late Renaissance fresco of Our Lady's Assumption by Antonio Correggio on the inside of the dome of Parma Cathedral in Italy. Unlike other well-known paintings of the Assumption, Antonio Allegri da Correggio (1489-1534) shows Mary cramped between a lot of human figures, reminding us that Mary is highly exalted, sharing already in the victory of Jesus over death, but as ONE OF US, the "Mother of all her Son's people" and our "Sister in Christ." She shares his glory now, even as she prays for the pilgrim Church which will one day fully share that same victory and glory. 

And here is something else equally unusual, and very beautiful. It is A Poem for the Feast of Mary's Dormition - the Orthodox name for today - by Dr Virginia M. Kimball, an Orthodox theologian and adjunct Professor at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA. 

Death is swallowed up [1 Corinthians 15:54]
Mother of Christ at the crisp
autumn of her earthly life,
like a leaf floated, drifted, passed
into her final day, awaiting
death to joyful lifting,
to waiting Jesus …
on a mournful bier,
like in the birthing cave,
now surrounded by beloved sons –
Peter, Paul, and loving ones
who wept, singing solemn
hymns, clutching lamps
that flickered soft lights
of hope.

She slept a quiet, death-filled sleep,
silent, at peace, motionless …
like us when we breathe our last,
when loved ones peer into a casket
and kiss our cold, bony hand
that once caressed and kissed
their newborn tenderness.

Death we know will come,
harsh as it oddly steals
a last breath, the sign of life
that looks now hopeless
and gone, "dead" they call us
and we don’t respond.

In utter terror is my soul –
And you, LORD, how long?
Turn to me LORD,
And save my life,
In mercy rescue me! [Psalm 6:4-5]

We remember her dormition,
a story handed down,
a promise from ancient days,
Mary’s son cradling her
amidst the chant and myrrh,
and lifted her away.
And so they say,
angels sang, a sash on her dress
suddenly came down,
captured in doubtfulness
by dear and tardy Thomas.

We can almost hear her song,
again this time magnifying
all our deaths in time, passing
in faith from time, to seeing,
to being forever,
in and with the eternal Being.
Return my soul to your rest,
for my soul has been freed,
freed from death,
my eyes freed from tears,
and my feet freed from life’s stumbling. [Psalm 116:7-8]

And joyous in the clouds
of a fathomless heaven,
we know she knew:
I shall work before my LORD
in the land of the living. [Psalm 116:9]

In the ancient darkened church,
alive with festive birthing
thoughts about the mother’s
death day rising to her Son,
we see the mother lying quiet,
in an icon above the door,
a door to the rest when we have rest
in our very own days.
We sing to the mystical ways
of our LORD, that while we sleep
in death no one should weep
for we sleep a sleep of life
having passed through all earth’s strife.

I shall not die but live,
and cry magnificent deeds of my LORD,
a loving LORD who had to chastise me harshly,
but does not hand me
over to a deathly death. [Psalm 118:18]

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Assumption of Mary had been strongly believed
since the earliest times of Church history
(in the East as well as in the West).
Above is an 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. That having been said, however, it is significant that in Section 78 the Anglican and Roman Catholic theologians on ARCIC II were able to affirm together:

- 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.

Today is Our Lady's great day, when she 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 day that reminds us of the profound sense in which the task of our theologies - even papal pronouncements - is to "catch up" with the instinctive convictions of the Church, and in particular the Church of the first millennium. That was the case historically, and for Christians journeying from an "anti-Marian" perspective to the fulness of faith, it is so in our time.

In this post, then, I simply want to share with you some quotes that might enrich your meditation today.

"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."

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.

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.

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.

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."

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."

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 . . ."