On Sunday, the feast of the Assumption replaced the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time.
The first reading, from the Book of the Apocalypse, highlights the extraordinary, otherworldly quality of the mystery of the Assumption.
The sanctuary of God in heaven opened and the ark of the covenant could be seen inside it. Then came flashes of lightning, peals of thunder and an earthquake, and violent hail.
Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with the twelve stars on her head for a crown. She was pregnant, and in labour, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth. Then a second sign appeared in the sky, a huge red dragon which had seven heads and ten horns, and each of the seven heads crowned with a coronet. Its tail dragged a third of the stars from the sky and dropped them to the earth, and the dragon stopped in front of the woman as she was having the child, so that he could eat it as soon as it was born from its mother. The woman brought a male child into the world, the son who was to rule all the nations with an iron sceptre, and the child was taken straight up to God and to his throne, while the woman escaped into the desert, where God had made a place of safety ready, for her to be looked after in the twelve hundred and sixty days.
Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, ‘Victory and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ, now that the persecutor, who accused our brothers day and night before our God, has been brought down.’
Ordinary language cracks and breaks when we approach the mysteries of God, even as we participate in them.
The mythic, symbolic language of the Apocalypse makes that clear. But we need to know that in this extraordinariness are very real and very potent gifts for us in the here and now. Life is gifted to us, won for us, beyond the ordinary. It raises us to a new pitch of living and joy. It is offered, and we can safely receive it and live it. God promises. The heavens shout it.
- In our day where do you see the signs of heaven?
- How might the hope of the Gospel find fresh expression in our society, our parishes, our families?
Mosaic of Chi Rho, Cathedral, Marseille. © 2014, Allen Morris.