Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together as a whole universal Church, the great Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Most holy Mother of God. On this day we commemorate the moment when Mary was raised to the glory of heaven, in body and soul, by the grace of her Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This Solemnity of the Assumption has its parallel in our Eastern Christian brethren in the Feast of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin.
This Assumption of Mary into heaven refers therefore to the taking up of Mary, God’s own beloved mother, into heaven directly in the whole of her being, body and soul. There are those who according to the various traditions ascribed Mary having gone to ‘sleep’ and was reunited with her Son in the heavenly glory He has prepared for her, and also those who ascribed her disappearing from this world for she has been taken up body and soul into heaven.
But the key message and consideration in this great celebration of the Solemnity of the Assumption is the fact that Mary has been saved from death, unlike other men and women, all of us who have to face death at the appointed time, time which we will never know, a time of God’s choosing and will, the moment when we end our worldly existence and move on into the life that is to come and give an account of our life before God.
And death, as St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, is the sting of sin. It means that because of sin, which is itself caused by disobedience against the will of God and against His laws and commandments, have caused us to suffer the consequence that is death, the ending of our mortal and worldly existence in this world. That is just also because life is a gift from God to us, and sin makes us to be separated from God.
Thus, because of our sins, death is a natural consequence of our disobedience against God, and hence all of us are mortal, will eventually face death in the face. However, what if someone is so virtuous and great, and so pure and immaculate so as to be worthy of God and to escape death altogether? Is that possible, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Scripture provides us with an answer, in several individuals known to have been brought up to God without going through death.
First of all from the Book of Genesis we have Enoch, one of the early descendants of Adam who was described as a very virtuous and righteous person who is a friend of God, and after spending three hundred and sixty-five years in this world, was taken up to God’s side, and no longer walked on earth among men. And then we also heard of the prophet Elijah whom God took up into heaven on a flaming chariot in the Book of Kings.
And last and greatest of all, was Mary herself, who by Apostolic tradition of the Church, passed into the realm of eternal glory in the same manner, for among all men and women, surpassing all others, save that of her Son alone, she has been prepared and made worthy to be the one to bear the Saviour of the world and the Master of all the universe in her. And that is why Mary was assumed into heaven and celebrated today in this most Solemn feast of the Assumption.
For we heard in the Scripture reading for the Vigil Mass of the Assumption that the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the city of Jerusalem led by king David, the king of Israel. The Ark of the Covenant is the holiest object and the centre focus of all the whole nation of Israel, because in the Ark of the Covenant was contained the two tablets of the Law of God, the Ten Commandments, the rod of Aaron used by Moses during the Exodus and the manna, bread from heaven that God has given to His people during that time.
And God’s presence came down frequently on the Ark of the Covenant as mentioned in the Book of Exodus and the subsequent books mentioning about the moments when the Israelites journeyed through the desert on their way to the Promised Land. The Ark of the Covenant occupied the centre place in the entire community at the centre of the Holy Tent of Meeting, as the symbolic representation of God being present in the midst of His people.
That was why the Ark of the Covenant was made from the finest materials, from gold and most precious wood and best of earthly matters available, to be the throne of God Himself on earth among His people. And in one incident just before the Ark was brought into the city of Jerusalem, one of the priests who accidentally touched the Ark during its transfer was struck dead because of the misdeed. All of these served to show just how sacred and great that Ark of the Covenant, the throne of God’s Holy Presence is.
Now, then, let us all compare that old Ark of the Covenant, made by human hands using the best materials that the world can provide, and containing the old Covenant and Law of God as revealed through Moses, with the New Covenant that Christ has brought with Himself into this world, the fullness of the truth of God as He Himself revealed, the fulfilment of the Law and the prophecies of the Lord.
And Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant just as Jesus Christ her Son, our Lord is the New Covenant between us and God. That is why the Church from the time of the Apostles has held and taught the core belief that Mary has always been pure and free from the state of original sin, by the grace of God. She is called the Immaculate Conception because she alone has received the grace to be free entirely from the corruption of sin, and she remained pure throughout her life.
As mentioned earlier, God has made her to be special because she is truly the New Ark of the Covenant which far surpassed the old Ark of the Covenant. Through her, the Lord and Saviour of this world Himself came into this world, Who spent nine months in her womb. If the old Ark contained the tablets of stone of the Law and the bread of manna, then in Mary, the New Ark of the Covenant, was the Law Himself, the complete fullness of the Law and the Bread of Life.
As such, Mary has to be pure and spotless, without the corruption of sin and immaculate, to be the bearer of God Himself in her. For Jesus Christ her Son is not just the Son of Man, but also the Son of God, having in Him the two natures of God and Man. If the old Ark of the Covenant was so sacred, then Mary must indeed be special and sacred as well. And thus, it has implication in what we are celebrating today, the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary.
That is because at the start of today’s discourse, we mention about death being the sting of sin, meaning that it is because of sin that we have to endure and experience death. But then, Mary is immaculate and free from the taint of original sin, as the Mother of God and the Ark of the New Covenant. How can she then suffer the consequence for sin when she herself was free from the taint of sin throughout her life?
And how can the mother of the Saviour of the world, Who came into this world to deliver us all from the tyranny of sin and death be subjected to the same suffering and the pain of death that her own Son has conquered and triumphed against by His victory on the Cross and His glorious Resurrection from the dead? That is why, we all believe firmly and fervently that Mary truly has been granted the grace by God to pass over death itself and hence was assumed body and soul directly into heaven without experiencing death.
Today, all of us ought to look upon Mary, and see in her the perfect example of who we all as Christians should be in our own lives. Mary has been the faithful servant all her life, not just because she has been set aside by God to be pure and immaculate, free from sin, but even throughout her life, she has loved the Lord so much, and loved her Son with all of her strength, that she continued to live in a state of grace throughout to the moment of the end of her earthly presence at the Assumption.
We see in Mary a reflection of our own glorified persons, as the sure promise of the Lord to us when we are faithful to Him that He will do with us as what He has done with His mother. He has promised us all that all of us who are faithful and worthy will be with Him for eternity, to enjoy forever the true happiness and joy in His presence, and Mary is showing us the way forward to reach this state of grace with her Son.
And she is constantly helping us in reaching out to her Son, by her constant prayers and intercessions for our sake. Now that she is in the glory of heaven by the side of her Son’s Throne, Mary is truly the greatest of all saints, the one who is nearest to Our Lord and Saviour, being concerned all the time for us. For we must not forget that from His Cross, Our Lord has symbolically entrusted Mary to be our mother too through His Apostle St. John, and also vice versa, all of us as her children.
Let us all therefore pray together, brothers and sisters in Christ, and ask Mary, the glorious Mother of God assumed into heaven, to intercede for our sake always before her Son’s Throne, that we may always be persistent and courageous in living our lives with faith. Let us all also follow the examples of Mary’s obedience and faith in God, and be ever closer to her Son through her. May all of us be filled with God’s grace and be worthy of His inheritance. Amen.