Friday, August 15, 2008

Mary's Assumption is a Sign of Sure Hope and Comfort

Homily of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Parrocchia di San Tommaso da Villanova, Castel Gandolfo
August 15, 2008

Dear brothers and sisters,

Every year, in the heart of summer, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the oldest Marian feast, recurs. It is an occasion to rise with Mary to the heights of the spirit, where one breathes the pure air of supernatural life and contemplates the most authentic beauty, that of sanctity.

The climate of today's celebration is completely pervaded with Paschal joy. "Today," chants the antiphon of the Magnificat, "Mary has gone up to heaven: Rejoice! with Christ, she reigns for always. Alleluia." This announcement tells us of an event that was totally unique and extraordinary and destined to fill with hope and happiness the heart of every human being.

Mary is in fact the "first fruit" of new humanity, the creature in whom the mystery of Christ - incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension to heaven - has had its full effect, rescuing her from death and transferring her, body and soul, to the kingdom of immortal life. That is why Mary, as the Second Vatican Council reminds us, constitutes a sign of sure hope and comfort (cfr Lumen gentium, 68).

Today's feast impels us to raise our eyes to heaven. Not a heaven made up of abstract ideas, nor an imaginary one created by art, but the heaven of true reality, God himself. God is heaven. He is our goal, the goal and eternal dwelling from which we came and to which we return.

St. German, Bishop of Constantinople in the eighth century, in a discourse given on the feast of the Assumption, expressed himself this way in addressing himself to the celestial Mother of God: "You are she who, through your immaculate flesh, rejoined the Christian people to Christ... Just as everyone who thirsts runs to the spring, so does every man aspire to live, to see the light which never sets, and so does every Christian aspire to enter into the light of the Most Holy Trinity, where you have already entered."

These are the same sentiments which animate us today as we contemplate Mary in the glory of God. When she went to sleep in this world to reawaken in heaven, in effect she simply followed her Son Jesus for the last time in his longest and most decisive journey, in his passage "from this world to the Father" (cfr Jn 13,1). Like him, together with him, she left this world to return "to the house of the Father" (cfr Jn 14,2). And all this is not remote from us, as it might seem at first glance, because we are all children of the Father, God. We are all brothers of Jesus, and so we too are all children of Mary, our Mother.

And we are all reaching out towards happiness. The happiness we are all reaching to is God. We are all on a journey towards this happiness which we call heaven, which is really God. Mary helps us, encourages us, so that every moment of our existence becomes a step in this exodus, in our journey toward God. And so she helps us to render present even the reality of heaven, the greatness of God, in the life of our world.

Is this not basically the Paschal dynamism of man, of every man, who wants to become heavenly, totally happy, in the power of Christ's Resurrection? And is this not, perhaps, the start and anticipation of the movement which concerns every human being and the entire cosmos?

She whose flesh God took on and whose soul was pierced by a sword on Calvary became associated first and foremost, and in singular manner - to the mystery of this transformation which we are all reaching for, often pierced as we are ourselves by the sword of suffering in this world. The new Eve followed the new Adam in suffering, in the Passion, and thus, too, towards definitive joy.

Christ is the "first fruit," but his resurrected flesh is inseparable from that of his earthly Mother, and in her, all mankind is involved in the Assumption to God; and with her, all creation, whose groans of suffering are, as St. Paul tells us, the labor pains of the new humanity. Thus are born the new heavens and the new earth, in which there will no longer be tears nor lamentations, because there will no longer be death (cfr Ap 21,1-4).

What a great mystery of love is presented to us again today for our contemplation! Christ conquered death with the omnipotence of his love. Only love is omnipotent. This love impelled Christ to die for us and thus to conquer death. Yes, only love can make us enter the kingdom of life. Mary entered it behind her Son, associated in his glory, after having been associated in his Passion. She entered with an uncontainable impetus, keeping open after her the way for all of us. Because of that, we invoke her today as "Gate of Heaven," "Queen of the Angels," and "Refuge of Sinners."

Certainly no reasoning will make us understand these most sublime facts - only simple, direct faith, and the silence of prayer which puts us into contact with the Mystery which will always surpass us infinitely. Prayer helps us to speak to God and to listen to how the Lord speaks to our heart.

Let us ask Mary to give us today this gift of his faith, the faith which enables us to live already in this dimension between the finite and the infinite, the faith that transforms even our sense of time and the course of our existence, that faith in which we feel intimately that our life is not sucked back by the past but drawn towards the future, towards God, where Christ has preceded us, and after him, Mary.

Contemplating Our Lady assumed into heaven, we can better understand that our life of every day, although it may be marked by trials and difficulties, runs like a river towards the divine ocean, towards the fullness of joy and peace. We can better understand that our dying is not the end, but entry into a life that does not know death. Our setting into the horizon of this world is a re-emergence into the dawn of a new world and of the eternal day

"Mary, as you accompany us in the effort our daily living and dying, keep us constantly oriented towards the true homeland of the Beatitudes. Help us to do as you did."

Dear brothers and sisters, dear friends who are taking part today in our festivities, let us make this prayer to Mary together. Before the sad spectacle of so much false joy and contemporaneously of so much anguished pain which is widespread in the world, we should learn from her to become signs of hope and comfort ourselves - we must announce with our lives the Resurrection of Christ.

"Help us, Mother, radiant Gate of Heaven, Mother of Mercy, the spring from which comes forth our new life and our joy, Jesus Christ." Amen.


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