This Sunday, the feast of the Assumption replaces the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time.
The Gospel passage for the feast does not treat of the mystery of the Assumption, not directly.
Although the trajectory for the doctrine of Mary’s Assumption is established in the Scriptures, there is there no direct account of the Assumption.
So rather than a passage that speaks of the end of th life on earth of the Mother of God, we have a Gospel passage that speaks of her earlier years and her faithfulness, her being already blessed by God.
Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’
And Mary said:
‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones
and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things,
the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant,
mindful of his mercy
– according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.
In Little Gidding, one of his Four Quartets, TS Eliot famously wrote
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
The complete self- gift that Mary made in allowing God to make her mother of his Son finds its echo and completion in God’s receiving Mary in her wholeness at the end of her life, body, spirit, soul.
The feast we celebrate on Sunday, and the Gospel we preview today, opens us up to the presence and action of God always, everywhere, and to the opportunity that is there for usat all times and in all situations to participate in that divine life and love.
Titian’s Assumption, Frari, Venice. © 2013, Allen Morris