Today we celebrate the solemnity of the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother into heaven.
Early in the gospel according to Saint Luke, we read of the visit that Our Lady made to her cousin, Saint Elizabeth, who was expecting the birth of her son, Saint John the Baptist. When Mary entered the home of Elizabeth and Zachary, Elizabeth felt the baby in her womb “leap” as she said. No ordinary stirring of a developing child with which Elizabeth would have been very familiar by then but a “leap”! And by divine inspiration, Elizabeth knew that Mary was bearing in her womb the promised Messiah—the savior of the world. Elizabeth exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” We incorporate these words into the Hail, Mary every time we greet Our Blessed Mother with that beautiful prayer.
Mary answered Elizabeth with the words which have come to be called “the Magnificat,” from the first word of her utterance in Latin: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” Then she goes on to say, “From this day all generations will call me blessed.” By saying that, Our Lady became a prophet of the future, and by our using those words and all the other words which we address to her in prayer, we fulfill that lovely prophecy. We in this generation are celebrating her assumption into heaven, and thus we are calling her “blessed” here and now just as all authentic Christians have since the first generation of the Church and will continue to do until the end of time.
I remember the first time I visited the Carmelite monastery of nuns just south of the town of Carmel, California, in what is called the area of the Big Sur. It was a quiet afternoon and I knelt to pray in the chapel which smelled of incense. My eyes fell upon an inscription written along the arch over the sanctuary of the beautiful chapel. It was in Latin, and having studied Latin in high school, I have this unshakeable compulsion to try to decipher Latin inscriptions whenever and wherever I encounter them. What the Latin words said was unfamiliar to me, but it is a charming medieval prayer to the Mother of God. It says, in English, “Remember, Virgin Mother of God, when you stand in the presence of the Lord, to say good things about us and to turn his anger away from us.” How beautiful! How child-like! We stand beside her, as small children stand beside their mothers, often holding onto their legs or clutching their skirts, and depending upon their mothers to “put in a good word” for them with their daddies who might be angry when they see the broken vase or the empty cookie jar or the mud tracked into the living room. “Say good things about us, most holy Virgin and Mother,” we ask. Jesus was your little boy; he will listen to you. Turn his anger away from us even though we are sinners, you who are NOT a sinner but “full of grace” and altogether pleasing to your son.
So on this solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady into heaven, we say again to her that same simple, humble, child-like prayer that I first saw in the Carmelite monastery near Carmel: “When you go before the Lord, say good things about us and persuade your merciful Son not to be angry with us.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.