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Thursday, August 15, 2013

0293: Reflections on the Solemnity of the Assumption by Pope Benedict XVI



Entry 0293: Reflections on the Solemnity of the Assumption by Pope Benedict XVI




On eight occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on 15 August, in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. Here are the texts of eight brief addresses before the recitation of the Angelus and eight homilies delivered on these occasions.


SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Castel Gandolfo, Monday, 15 August 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, the Solemnity of the Assumption, we contemplate the mystery of Mary’s passage from this world to Paradise:  we celebrate, we could say, her “Pasch”.

Just as Christ rose from the dead with his glorious Body and ascended into Heaven, the Holy Virgin, completely united to him, was assumed into heavenly glory in her entire person. In this too, the Mother resembled her Son very closely, leading the way for us.

Alongside Jesus, the new Adam, “first fruits” of those who have risen (see I Cor 15: 20, 23), Our Lady, the new Eve, appears as “the beginning and image of the Church” (Preface), “sign of certain hope” for all Christians on their earthly pilgrimage (see Lumen Gentium, no. 68).

The Solemnity of the Assumption, so dear to popular tradition, serves as a useful occasion for all believers to meditate on the true sense and value of human existence in view of eternity.

Dear brothers and sisters, Heaven is our final dwelling place; from there, Mary encourages us by her example to welcome God’s will, so as not to allow ourselves to be seduced by the deceptive attraction to what is transitory and fleeting, and not to give in to the temptations of selfishness and evil which extinguish the joy of life in the heart.

I invoke the help of Mary assumed into Heaven especially for the young people who are participating in World Youth Day who, transferring from other German Dioceses where they were guests for some days or those coming directly from their own countries, are meeting from today on in Cologne.

God willing, I will join them on Thursday to live together the various moments of this extraordinary ecclesial event. The highlight of World Youth Day will be the solemn Prayer Vigil on Saturday evening and the Eucharistic Celebration on Sunday, 21 August.

May the Most Holy Virgin enable all those who are taking part to follow the example of the Magi in order to meet Christ present especially in the Eucharist, and to return to their cities and native lands with the active proposal to witness to the newness and joy of the Gospel.


MASS ON THE SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION
OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Parish Church of Castel Gandolfo, Monday, 15 August 2005

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

First of all, I offer a cordial greeting to you all. It gives me great joy to celebrate Mass in this beautiful parish church on the day of the Assumption.

I greet Cardinal Sodano, the Bishop of Albano, all the priests, the Mayor and all of you. Thank you for your presence.

The Feast of the Assumption is a day of joy. God has won. Love has won. It has won life. Love has shown that it is stronger than death, that God possesses the true strength and that his strength is goodness and love.

Mary was taken up body and soul into Heaven: there is even room in God for the body. Heaven is no longer a very remote sphere unknown to us.

We have a mother in Heaven. And the Mother of God, the Mother of the Son of God, is our Mother. He himself has said so. He made her our Mother when he said to the disciple and to all of us: “Behold, your Mother!”. We have a Mother in Heaven. Heaven is open, Heaven has a heart.

In the Gospel we heard the Magnificat, that great poem inspired by the Holy Spirit that came from Mary’s lips, indeed, from Mary’s heart. This marvellous canticle mirrors the entire soul, the entire personality of Mary. We can say that this hymn of hers is a portrait of Mary, a true icon in which we can see her exactly as she is. I would like to highlight only two points in this great canticle.

It begins with the word “Magnificat”: my soul “magnifies” the Lord, that is, “proclaims the greatness” of the Lord. Mary wanted God to be great in the world, great in her life and present among us all. She was not afraid that God might be a “rival” in our life, that with his greatness he might encroach on our freedom, our vital space. She knew that if God is great, we too are great. Our life is not oppressed but raised and expanded: it is precisely then that it becomes great in the splendour of God.

The fact that our first parents thought the contrary was the core of original sin. They feared that if God were too great, he would take something away from their life. They thought that they could set God aside to make room for themselves.

This was also the great temptation of the modern age, of the past three or four centuries. More and more people have thought and said: “But this God does not give us our freedom; with all his commandments, he restricts the space in our lives. So God has to disappear; we want to be autonomous and independent. Without this God we ourselves would be gods and do as we pleased”.

This was also the view of the Prodigal Son, who did not realize that he was “free” precisely because he was in his father’s house. He left for distant lands and squandered his estate. In the end, he realized that precisely because he had gone so far away from his father, instead of being free he had become a slave; he understood that only by returning home to his father’s house would he be truly free, in the full beauty of life.

This is how it is in our modern epoch. Previously, it was thought and believed that by setting God aside and being autonomous, following only our own ideas and inclinations, we would truly be free to do whatever we liked without anyone being able to give us orders. But when God disappears, men and women do not become greater; indeed, they lose the divine dignity, their faces lose God’s splendour. In the end, they turn out to be merely products of a blind evolution and, as such, can be used and abused. This is precisely what the experience of our epoch has confirmed for us.

Only if God is great is humankind also great. With Mary, we must begin to understand that this is so. We must not drift away from God but make God present; we must ensure that he is great in our lives. Thus, we too will become divine; all the splendour of the divine dignity will then be ours. Let us apply this to our own lives.

It is important that God be great among us, in public and in private life.

In public life, it is important that God be present, for example, through the cross on public buildings, and that he be present in our community life, for only if God is present do we have an orientation, a common direction; otherwise, disputes become impossible to settle, for our common dignity is no longer recognized.

Let us make God great in public and in private life. This means making room for God in our lives every day, starting in the morning with prayers, and then dedicating time to God, giving Sundays to God. We do not waste our free time if we offer it to God. If God enters into our time, all time becomes greater, roomier, richer.

A second observation: Mary’s poem - the Magnificat - is quite original; yet at the same time, it is a “fabric” woven throughout of “threads” from the Old Testament, of words of God.

Thus, we see that Mary was, so to speak, “at home” with God’s word, she lived on God’s word, she was penetrated by God’s word. To the extent that she spoke with God’s words, she thought with God’s words, her thoughts were God’s thoughts, her words, God’s words. She was penetrated by divine light and this is why she was so resplendent, so good, so radiant with love and goodness.

Mary lived on the Word of God, she was imbued with the Word of God. And the fact that she was immersed in the Word of God and was totally familiar with the Word also endowed her later with the inner enlightenment of wisdom.

Whoever thinks with God thinks well, and whoever speaks to God speaks well. They have valid criteria to judge all the things of the world. They become prudent, wise, and at the same time good; they also become strong and courageous with the strength of God, who resists evil and fosters good in the world.

Thus, Mary speaks with us, speaks to us, invites us to know the Word of God, to love the Word of God, to live with the Word of God, to think with the Word of God. And we can do so in many different ways: by reading Sacred Scripture, by participating especially in the Liturgy, in which Holy Church throughout the year opens the entire book of Sacred Scripture to us. She opens it to our lives and makes it present in our lives.

But I am also thinking of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that we recently published, in which the Word of God is applied to our lives and the reality of our lives interpreted; it helps us enter into the great “temple” of God’s Word, to learn to love it and, like Mary, to be penetrated by this Word.

Thus, life becomes luminous and we have the basic criterion with which to judge; at the same time, we receive goodness and strength.

Mary is taken up body and soul into the glory of Heaven, and with God and in God she is Queen of Heaven and earth. And is she really so remote from us?

The contrary is true. Precisely because she is with God and in God, she is very close to each one of us.

While she lived on this earth she could only be close to a few people. Being in God, who is close to us, actually, “within” all of us, Mary shares in this closeness of God. Being in God and with God, she is close to each one of us, knows our hearts, can hear our prayers, can help us with her motherly kindness and has been given to us, as the Lord said, precisely as a “mother” to whom we can turn at every moment.

She always listens to us, she is always close to us, and being Mother of the Son, participates in the power of the Son and in his goodness. We can always entrust the whole of our lives to this Mother, who is not far from any one of us.

On this feast day, let us thank the Lord for the gift of the Mother, and let us pray to Mary to help us find the right path every day. Amen.


SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Castel Gandolfo, Tuesday, 15 August 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Christian tradition has placed, as we know, in the heart of summer a most ancient and suggestive Marian feast, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Like Jesus, risen from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father, so Mary, having finished the course of her earthly existence, was assumed into Heaven.

Today, the liturgy reminds us of this consoling truth of faith, while it sings the praises of she who has been crowned with incomparable glory. We read today in the verse from Apocalypse proposed by the Church for our meditation: “And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (12: 1).

In this woman, resplendent with light, the Fathers of the Church have recognized Mary. In her triumph the Christian people, pilgrims in history, catch a glimpse of the fulfilment of its longing and a certain sign of its hope.

Mary is an example and support for all believers: she encourages us not to lose confidence before the difficulties and inevitable problems of every day. She assures us of her help and reminds us that it is essential to seek and think of “the things above, not those of the earth” (see Col 3: 2).

Caught up in daily activities we risk, in fact, to think that here, in this world in which we are only passing through, is the ultimate goal of human existence. Instead, Paradise is the true goal of our earthly pilgrimage.

How different our days would be if they were animated by this perspective! It was this way for the saints. Their lives witnessed to what they lived, with their hearts continually directed to God. Earthly realities are lived properly because the eternal truth of divine love illuminates them.

To the Queen of Peace, whom we contemplate today in heavenly glory, I want to entrust once again the anxieties of humanity in every violence-torn part of the world. We unite with our brothers and sisters who in this very hour are gathered in the Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon at Harissa for a Eucharistic celebration presided over by Cardinal Roger Etchegaray. He has gone to Lebanon as my Special Envoy to bring comfort and concrete solidarity to all the victims of the conflict and to pray for the great intention of peace.

We are also in communion with the Pastors and faithful of the Church in the Holy Land who are gathered in the Basilica of the Annunciation at Nazareth with the Pontifical Representative to Israel and Palestine, Archbishop Antonio Franco, in order to pray for the same intention.

My thoughts go also to the dear Nation of Sri Lanka, threatened by the deterioration of the ethnic conflict; to Iraq, where the terrible daily bloodshed delays the dawn of reconciliation and rebuilding.

May Mary obtain for all sentiments of comprehension, the will to understand and the desire for harmony!


MASS ON THE SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION
OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Parish Church of St Thomas of Villanova, Castel Gandolfo, Tuesday, 15 August 2006

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the Magnificat, the great hymn of Our Lady that we have just heard in the Gospel, we find some surprising words. Mary says: “Henceforth all generations will call me blessed”. The Mother of the Lord prophesies the Marian praises of the Church for all of the future, the Marian devotion of the People of God until the end of time. In praising Mary, the Church did not invent something “adjacent” to Scripture: she responded to this prophecy which Mary made at that moment of grace.

And Mary’s words were not only personal, perhaps arbitrary words. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit as St Luke said, exclaimed with a loud cry: “Blessed is she who believed...”. And Mary, also filled with the Holy Spirit, continues and completes what Elizabeth said, affirming: “all generations will call me blessed”. It is a real prophesy, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and in venerating Mary, the Church responds to a command of the Holy Spirit; she does what she has to do.

We do not praise God sufficiently by keeping silent about his saints, especially Mary, “the Holy One” who became his dwelling place on earth. The simple and multiform light of God appears to us exactly in its variety and richness only in the countenance of the saints, who are the true mirrors of his light. And it is precisely by looking at Mary’s face that we can see more clearly than in any other way the beauty, goodness and mercy of God. In her face we can truly perceive the divine light.

“All generations will call me blessed”. We can praise Mary, we can venerate Mary for she is “blessed”, she is blessed for ever. And this is the subject of this Feast. She is blessed because she is united to God, she lives with God and in God.

On the eve of his Passion, taking leave of his disciples, the Lord said: “In my Father’s house are many rooms... I go to prepare a place for you”.

By saying, “I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word”, Mary prepared God’s dwelling here on earth; with her body and soul, she became his dwelling place and thereby opened the earth to heaven.

In the Gospel we have just heard, St Luke, with various allusions, makes us understand that Mary is the true Ark of the Covenant, that the mystery of the Temple - God’s dwelling place here on earth - is fulfilled in Mary. God, who became present here on earth, truly dwells in Mary. Mary becomes his tent. What all the cultures desire - that God dwell among us - is brought about here.

St Augustine says: “Before conceiving the Lord in her body she had already conceived him in her soul”. She had made room for the Lord in her soul and thus really became the true Temple where God made himself incarnate, where he became present on this earth.

Thus, being God’s dwelling place on earth, in her the eternal dwelling place has already been prepared, it has already been prepared for ever. And this constitutes the whole content of the Dogma of the Assumption of Mary, body and soul, into heavenly glory, expressed here in these words. Mary is “blessed” because - totally, in body and soul and for ever - she became the Lord’s dwelling place. If this is true, Mary does not merely invite our admiration and veneration, but she guides us, shows us the way of life, shows us how we can become blessed, how to find the path of happiness.

Let us listen once again to Elizabeth’s words fulfilled in Mary’s Magnificat: “Blessed is she who believed”. The first and fundamental act in order to become a dwelling place of God and thus find definitive happiness is to believe: it is faith, faith in God, in that God who showed himself in Jesus Christ and makes himself heard in the divine Word of Holy Scripture.

Believing is not adding one opinion to others. And the conviction, the belief, that God exists is not information like any other. Regarding most information, it makes no difference to us whether it is true or false; it does not change our lives. But if God does not exist, life is empty, the future is empty. And if God exists, everything changes, life is light, our future is light and we have guidance for how to live. Therefore, believing constitutes the fundamental orientation of our life. To believe, to say: “Yes, I believe that you are God, I believe that you are present among us in the Incarnate Son”, gives my life a direction, impels me to be attached to God, to unite with God and so to find my dwelling place, and the way to live.

To believe is not only a way of thinking or an idea; as has already been mentioned, it is a way of acting, a manner of living. To believe means to follow the trail indicated to us by the Word of God. In addition to this fundamental act of faith, which is an existential act, a position taken for the whole of life, Mary adds another word: “His mercy is on those who fear him”.

Together with the whole of Scripture, she is speaking of “fear of God”. Perhaps this is a phrase with which we are not very familiar or do not like very much. But “fear of God” is not anguish; it is something quite different. As children, we are not anxious about the Father but we have fear of God, the concern not to destroy the love on which our life is based.

Fear of God is that sense of responsibility that we are bound to possess, responsibility for the portion of the world that has been entrusted to us in our lives. It is responsibility for the good administration of this portion of the world and of history, and one thus helps the just building of the world, contributing to the victory of goodness and peace.

“All generations will call you blessed”: this means that the future, what is to come, belongs to God, it is in God’s hands, that it is God who conquers.

Nor does he conquer the mighty dragon of which today’s First Reading speaks, the dragon that represents all the powers of violence in the world. They seem invincible but Mary tells us that they are not invincible.

The Woman - as the First Reading and the Gospel show us - is stronger, because God is stronger. Of course, in comparison with the dragon, so heavily armed, this Woman who is Mary, who is the Church, seems vulnerable or defenceless. And truly God is vulnerable in the world, because he is Love and love is vulnerable. Yet he holds the future in his hands: it is love, not hatred, that triumphs; it is peace that is victorious in the end.

This is the great consolation contained in the Dogma of Mary’s Assumption body and soul into heavenly glory. Let us thank the Lord for this consolation but let us also see it as a commitment for us to take the side of good and peace. And let us pray to Mary, Queen of Peace, to help peace to be victorious today: “Queen of Peace, pray for us!”. Amen!


SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, we are celebrating the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is an ancient feast deeply rooted in Sacred Scripture: indeed, it presents the Virgin Mary closely united to her divine Son and ever supportive of him.

Mother and Son appear closely bound in the fight against the infernal enemy until they completely defeat him. This victory is expressed in particular in overcoming sin and death, that is, in triumphing over the enemies which St Paul always presents as connected (see Rom 5: 12, 15-21; I Cor 15: 21-26).

Therefore, just as Christ’s glorious Resurrection was the definitive sign of this victory, so Mary’s glorification in her virginal body is the ultimate confirmation of her total solidarity with the Son, both in the conflict and in victory.

The Servant of God Pope Pius XII interpreted the deep theological meaning of this mystery on 1 November 1950 when he pronounced the solemn Dogmatic Definition of this Marian privilege.

He declared: “Hence, the revered Mother of God, from all eternity joined in a hidden way with Jesus Christ in one and the same decree of predestination, immaculate in her conception, a most perfect virgin in her divine motherhood, the noble associate of the divine Redeemer who has won a complete triumph over sin and its consequences, finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of Heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendour at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages” (Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus: AAS 42, [1 November 1950]).

Dear brothers and sisters, after being taken up into Heaven, Mary did not distance herself from us but continues to be even closer to us and her light shines on our lives and on the history of all humanity. Attracted by the heavenly brightness of the Mother of the Redeemer, let us turn with trust to the One who looks upon us and protects us from on high.

We all need her help and comfort to face the trials and challenges of daily life; we need to feel that she is our mother and sister in the concrete situations of our lives.

And so that we too may one day be able to share in her same destiny, let us imitate her now in her meek following of Christ and her generous service to the brethren. This is the only way to have a foretaste, already on our earthly pilgrimage, of the joy and peace which those who reach the immortal destination of Paradise live to the full.


HOLY MASS ON THE SOLEMNITY
OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Thomas of Villanova Parish, Castel Gandolfo, Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In his great work De Civitate Dei, St Augustine says once that the whole of human history, the history of the world, is a struggle between two loves: love of God to the point of losing oneself, of total self-giving, and love of oneself to the point of despising God, of hating others. This same interpretation of history as a struggle between two loves, between love and selfishness, also appears in the reading from the Book of Revelation that we have just heard.

Here, these two loves appear in two great figures. First of all, there is the immensely strong, red dragon with a striking and disturbing manifestation of power without grace, without love, of absolute selfishness, terror and violence.

At the time when St John wrote the Book of Revelation, this dragon represented for him the power of the anti-Christian Roman Emperors, from Nero to Domitian. This power seemed boundless; the military, political and propagandist power of the Roman Empire was such that before it, faith, the Church, appeared as a defenceless woman with no chance of survival and even less of victory.

Who could stand up to this omnipresent force that seemed capable of achieving everything? Yet, we know that in the end it was the defenceless woman who won and not egoism or hatred; the love of God triumphed and the Roman Empire was opened to the Christian faith.

The words of Sacred Scripture always transcend the period in history. Thus, not only does this dragon suggest the anti-Christian power of the persecutors of the Church of that time, but also anti-Christian dictatorships of all periods.

We see this power, the force of the red dragon, brought into existence once again in the great dictatorships of the last century: the Nazi dictatorship and the dictatorship of Stalin monopolized all the power, penetrated every corner, the very last corner. It seemed impossible in the long term that faith could survive in the face of this dragon that was so powerful, that could not wait to devour God become a Child, as well as the woman, the Church. But also in this case, in the end love was stronger than hate.

Today too, the dragon exists in new and different ways. It exists in the form of materialistic ideologies that tell us it is absurd to think of God; it is absurd to observe God’s commandments: they are a leftover from a time past. Life is only worth living for its own sake. Take everything we can get in this brief moment of life. Consumerism, selfishness and entertainment alone are worthwhile. This is life. This is how we must live. And once again, it seems absurd, impossible, to oppose this dominant mindset with all its media and propagandist power. Today too, it seems impossible to imagine a God who created man and made himself a Child and who was to be the true ruler of the world.

Even now, this dragon appears invincible, but it is still true today that God is stronger than the dragon, that it is love which conquers rather than selfishness.

Having thus considered the various historical forms of the dragon, let us now look at the other image: the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, surrounded by 12 stars. This is also a multidimensional image.

Without any doubt, a first meaning is that it is Our Lady, Mary, clothed with the sun, that is, with God, totally; Mary who lives totally in God, surrounded and penetrated by God’s light. Surrounded by the 12 stars, that is, by the 12 tribes of Israel, by the whole People of God, by the whole Communion of Saints; and at her feet, the moon, the image of death and mortality.

Mary has left death behind her; she is totally clothed in life, she is taken up body and soul into God’s glory and thus, placed in glory after overcoming death, she says to us: Take heart, it is love that wins in the end!

The message of my life was: I am the handmaid of God, my life has been a gift of myself to God and my neighbour. And this life of service now arrives in real life. May you too have trust and have the courage to live like this, countering all the threats of the dragon.

This is the first meaning of the woman whom Mary succeeded in being. The “woman clothed with the sun” is the great sign of the victory of love, of the victory of goodness, of the victory of God; a great sign of consolation.

Yet, this woman who suffered, who had to flee, who gave birth with cries of anguish, is also the Church, the pilgrim Church of all times. In all generations she has to give birth to Christ anew, to bring him very painfully into the world, with great suffering. Persecuted in all ages, it is almost as if, pursued by the dragon, she had gone to live in the wilderness.

However, in all ages, the Church, the People of God, also lives by the light of God and as the Gospel says is nourished by God, nourishing herself with the Bread of the Holy Eucharist. Thus, in all the trials in the various situations of the Church through the ages in different parts of the world, she wins through suffering. And she is the presence, the guarantee of God’s love against all the ideologies of hatred and selfishness.

We see of course that today too the dragon wants to devour God who made himself a Child. Do not fear for this seemingly frail God; the fight has already been won. Today too, this weak God is strong: he is true strength.

Thus, the Feast of the Assumption is an invitation to trust in God and also to imitate Mary in what she herself said: Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; I put myself at the Lord’s disposal.

This is the lesson: one should travel on one’s own road; one should give life and not take it. And precisely in this way each one is on the journey of love which is the loss of self, but this losing of oneself is in fact the only way to truly find oneself, to find true life.

Let us look to Mary, taken up into Heaven. Let us be encouraged to celebrate the joyful feast with faith: God wins. Faith, which seems weak, is the true force of the world. Love is stronger than hate.

And let us say with Elizabeth: Blessed are you among women. Let us pray to you with all the Church: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.


SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Friday, 15 August 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, in the heart of what Latin-speakers called the “feriae Augusti”, the August holidays, from which the Italian term “ferragosto” derives - the Church celebrates the Assumption into Heaven of the Virgin Mary, body and soul. The last reference to her earthly life in the Bible is found at the beginning in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, which presents Mary gathered in prayer with the disciples in the Upper Room, waiting for the Holy Spirit (Acts 1: 14). Subsequently a double tradition - in Jerusalem and in Ephesus - attests to her “Dormition”, as Eastern-rite believers say, that is, her “falling asleep” in God. This was the event that preceded her passing from this earth to Heaven, professed by the uninterrupted faith of the Church. In the eighth century, by establishing a direct relationship between the “Dormition” of Mary and Jesus’ death, for example, John Damascene, renowned doctor of the Eastern Church, explicitly affirms the truth of her bodily assumption. In a famous homily he wrote: “She who nursed her Creator as an infant at her breast, had a right to be in the divine tabernacles” (Sermon II: On the Assumption, 14, PG 96, 741B).

As is well known, this strong conviction of the Church culminated in the dogmatic definition of the Assumption affirmed by my venerable Predecessor Pius XII in the year 1950.

As the Second Vatican Council teaches, Mary Most Holy should always be seen in the mystery of Christ and of the Church. In this perspective: “the Mother of Jesus in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise she shines forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come (see 2 Pt 3: 10)” (Lumen Gentium, no. 68). From Paradise, especially in difficult times of tribulation, Our Lady always continues to watch over her children whom Jesus himself entrusted to her from the Cross before dying. How many are the testimonies of this motherly concern found in visiting shrines dedicated to her! At this moment I think especially of the unique citadel of life and hope that is Lourdes. I shall be going there in a month’s time, please God, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Marian apparitions that took place there.

Mary assumed into Heaven points out to us the final destination of our earthly pilgrimage. She reminds us that our whole being - spirit, soul and body - is destined for fullness of life; that those who live and die in love of God and of their neighbour will be transfigured in the image of the glorious Body of the Risen Christ; that the Lord will cast down the proud and exalt the humble (see Lk 1: 51-52). With the mystery of her Assumption Our Lady proclaims this eternally. May you be praised for ever, O Virgin Mary! Pray the Lord for us.


SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Thomas of Villanova Parish, Castel Gandolfo, Friday, 15 August 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the oldest Marian Feast, returns every year in the heart of summer. It is an opportunity 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, the beauty of holiness. The atmosphere of today’s celebration is steeped in paschal joy. “Today”, the antiphon of the Magnificat says, “the Virgin Mary was taken up to Heaven. Rejoice, for she reigns with Christ for ever. Alleluia”. This proclamation speaks to us of an event that is utterly unique and extraordinary, yet destined to fill the heart of every human being with hope and happiness. Mary is indeed the first fruit of the new humanity, the creature in whom the mystery of Christ - his Incarnation, death, Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven - has already fully taken effect, redeeming her from death and conveying her, body and soul, to the Kingdom of immortal life. For this reason, as the Second Vatican Council recalls, the Virgin Mary is a sign of certain hope and comfort to us (see Lumen Gentium, no. 68). Today’s feast impels us to lift our gaze to Heaven; not to a heaven consisting of abstract ideas or even an imaginary heaven created by art, but the Heaven of true reality which is God himself. God is Heaven. He is our destination, the destination and the eternal dwelling place from which we come and for which we are striving.

St Germanus, Bishop of Constantinople in the eighth century, in a homily given on the Feast of the Assumption, addressing the heavenly Mother of God said: “You are the One who through your immaculate flesh reunited the Christian people with Christ.... Just as all who thirst hasten to the fountain, so every soul hastens to you, the Fountain of love, and as every man aspires to live, to see the light that never fades, so every Christian longs to enter the light of the Most Blessed Trinity where you already are”. It is these same sentiments that inspire us today as we contemplate Mary in God’s glory. In fact, when she fell asleep in this world to reawaken in Heaven, she simply followed her Son Jesus for the last time, on his longest and most crucial journey, his passage “from this world to the Father” (see Jn 13: 1).

Like him, together with him, she departed this world to return “to the Father’s House” (see Jn 14: 2). And all this is not remote from us as it might seem at first sight, because we are all children of the Father, God; we are all brothers and sisters of Jesus and we are all also children of Mary, our Mother. And we all aspire to happiness. And the happiness to which we all aspire is God, so we are all journeying on toward this happiness we call Heaven which in reality is God. And Mary helps us, she encourages us to ensure that every moment of our life is a step forward on this exodus, on this journey toward God. May she help us in this way to make the reality of heaven, God’s greatness, also present in the life of our world. Is this not basically the paschal dynamism of the human being, of every person who wants to become heavenly, perfectly happy, by virtue of Christ’s Resurrection? And might this not be the beginning and anticipation of a movement that involves every human being and the entire cosmos? She, from whom God took his flesh and whose soul was pierced by a sword on Calvary, was associated first and uniquely in the mystery of this transformation for which we, also often pierced by the sword of suffering in this world, are all striving.

The new Eve followed the new Adam in suffering, in the Passion, and so too in definitive joy. Christ is the first fruits but his risen flesh is inseparable from that of his earthly Mother, Mary. In Mary all humanity is involved in the Assumption to God, and together with her all creation, whose groans and sufferings, St Paul tells us, are the birth-pangs of the new humanity. Thus are born the new Heaven and the new earth in which death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more (see Rv 21: 1-4).

What a great mystery of love is presented to us once again today for our contemplation! Christ triumphed over death with the omnipotence of his love. Love alone is omnipotent. This love impelled Christ to die for us and thus to overcome death. Yes, love alone gives access to the Kingdom of life! And Mary entered after her Son, associated with his Glory, after being associated with his Passion. She entered it with an uncontainable force, keeping the way behind her open to us all. And for this reason we invoke her today as “Gate of Heaven”, “Queen of Angels” and “Refuge of sinners”. It is certainly not reasoning that will make us understand this reality which is so sublime, but rather simple, forthright faith and the silence of prayer that puts us in touch with the Mystery that infinitely exceeds us. Prayer helps us speak with God and hear how the Lord speaks to our heart.

Let us ask Mary today to make us the gift of her faith, that faith which enables us already to live in the dimension between finite and infinite, that faith which also transforms the sentiment of time and the passing of our existence, that faith in which we are profoundly aware that our life is not retracted by the past but attracted towards the future, towards God, where Christ, and behind him Mary, has preceded us.

By looking at Mary’s Assumption into Heaven we understand better that even though our daily life may be marked by trials and difficulties, it flows like a river to the divine ocean, to the fullness of joy and peace. We understand that our death is not the end but rather the entrance into life that knows no death. Our setting on the horizon of this world is our rising at the dawn of the new world, the dawn of the eternal day.

“Mary, while you accompany us in the toil of our daily living and dying, keep us constantly oriented to the true homeland of bliss. Help us to do as you did”.

Dear brothers and sisters, dear friends who are taking part in this celebration this morning, let us pray this prayer to Mary together. In the face of the sad spectacle of all the false joy and at the same time of all the anguished suffering which is spreading through the world, we must learn from her to become ourselves signs of hope and comfort; we must proclaim with our own lives Christ’s Resurrection.

“Help us, Mother, bright Gate of Heaven, Mother of Mercy, source through whom came Jesus Christ, our life and our joy. Amen”.


SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Saturday, 15 August 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the heart of the month of August, a holiday period for many families and also for me, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. This is a privileged opportunity to meditate on the ultimate meaning of our existence, helped by today’s Liturgy which invites us to live in this world oriented to eternal happiness in order to share in the same glory as Mary, the same joy as our Mother (see Opening Prayer). Let us, therefore, turn our gaze to Our Lady, Star of Hope, who illumines us on our earthly journey, and follow the example of the Saints who turned to her in every circumstance. You know that we are celebrating the Year for Priests in remembrance of the Holy Curé d’Ars, and I would like to draw from the thoughts and testimonies of this holy country parish priest some ideas for reflection that will be able to help all of us especially us priests to strengthen our love and veneration for the Most Holy Virgin.

His biographers claim that St John Mary Vianney spoke to Our Lady with devotion and, at the same time, with trust and spontaneity. “The Blessed Virgin”, he used to say, “is immaculate and adorned with all the virtues that make her so beautiful and pleasing to the Blessed Trinity” (B. Nodet, Il pensiero e l’anima del Curato d’Ars, Turin 1967, p. 303). And further: “The heart of this good Mother is nothing but love and mercy, all she wants is to see us happy. To be heard, it suffices to address oneself to her” (ibid., p. 307). The priest’s zeal shines through these words. Motivated by apostolic longing, he rejoiced in speaking to his faithful of Mary and never tired of doing so. He could even present a difficult mystery like today’s, that of the Assumption, with effective images, such as, for example: “Man was created for Heaven. The devil broke the ladder that led to it. Our Lord, with his Passion, made another.... The Virgin Most Holy stands at the top of the ladder and holds it steady with both hands” (ibid.).

The Holy Curé d’Ars was attracted above all by Mary’s beauty, a beauty that coincides with her being Immaculate, the only creature to have been conceived without a shadow of sin. “The Blessed Virgin”, he said, “is that beautiful Creature who never displeased the good Lord” (ibid. p. 306). As a good and faithful pastor, he first of all set an example also in this filial love for the Mother of Jesus by whom he felt drawn toward Heaven. “Were I not to go to Heaven”, he exclaimed, “how sorry I should be! I should never see the Blessed Virgin, this most beautiful creature!” (ibid., p. 309). Moreover, on several occasions he consecrated his parish to Our Lady, recommending that mothers in particular do the same, every morning, with their children. Dear brothers and sisters, let us make our own the sentiments of the Holy Curé d’Ars. And with his same faith let us turn to Mary, taken up into Heaven, in a special way entrusting to her the priests of the whole world.


HOLY MASS ON THE SOLEMNITY
OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Thomas of Villanova Parish, Castel Gandolfo, Saturday, 15 August 2009

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today’s Solemnity crowns the series of important liturgical celebrations in which we are called to contemplate the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the history of salvation. Indeed, the Immaculate Conception, the Annunciation, the Divine Motherhood and the Assumption are the fundamental, interconnected milestones with which the Church exalts and praises the glorious destiny of the Mother of God, but in which we can also read our history. The mystery of Mary’s conception recalls the first page of the human event, pointing out to us that in the divine plan of creation man was to have had the purity and beauty of the Virgin Immaculate. This plan, jeopardized but not destroyed by sin, through the Incarnation of the Son of God, proclaimed and brought into being in Mary, was recomposed and restored to the free acceptance of the human being in faith. Lastly, in Mary’s Assumption, we contemplate what we ourselves are called to attain in the following of Christ the Lord and in obedience to his word, at the end of our earthly journey.

The last stage of the Mother of God’s earthly pilgrimage invites us to look at the manner in which she journeyed on toward the goal of glorious eternity.

In the Gospel passage just proclaimed, St Luke tells that, after the Angel’s announcement, Mary “arose and went with haste into the hill country”, to visit Elizabeth (Lk 1: 39). With these words the Evangelist wishes to emphasize that for Mary to follow her own vocation in docility to God’s Spirit, who has brought about within her the Incarnation of the Word, means taking a new road and immediately setting out from home, allowing herself to be led on a journey by God alone. St Ambrose, commenting on Mary’s “haste”, says: “the grace of the Holy Spirit admits of no delay” (Expos. Evang. sec. Lucam, II, 19: PL 15, 1560). Our Lady’s life is guided by Another: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1: 38); it is modelled by the Holy Spirit, it is marked by events and encounters, such as that with Elizabeth, but above all by her very special relationship with her Son Jesus. It is a journey on which Mary, cherishing and pondering in her heart the events of her own life, perceives in them ever more profoundly the mysterious design of God the Father for the salvation of the world.

Then, by following Jesus from Bethlehem to exile in Egypt, in both his hidden and his public life and even to the foot of the Cross, Mary lives her constant ascent to God in the spirit of the Magnificat, fully adhering to God’s plan of love, even in moments of darkness and suffering, and nourishing in her heart total abandonment in the Lord’s hands in order to be a paradigm for the faithful of the Church (see Lumen Gentium, nos. 64-65).

The whole of life is an ascent, the whole of life is meditation, obedience, trust and hope, even in darkness; and the whole of life is marked by this “holy haste” which knows that God always has priority and nothing else must create haste in our existence.

And, lastly, the Assumption reminds us that Mary’s life, like that of every Christian, is a journey of following, following Jesus, a journey that has a very precise destination, a future already marked out: the definitive victory over sin and death and full communion with God, because as Paul says in his Letter to the Ephesians the Father “raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2: 6). This means that with Baptism we have already fundamentally been raised and are seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, but we must physically attain what was previously begun and brought about in Baptism. In us, union with Christ resurrection is incomplete, but for the Virgin Mary it is complete, despite the journey that Our Lady also had to make. She has entered into the fullness of union with God, with her Son, she draws us onwards and accompanies us on our journey.

In Mary taken up into Heaven we therefore contemplate the One who, through a unique privilege, was granted to share with her soul and her body in Christ’s definitive victory over death. “When her earthly life was over”, the Second Vatican Council says, the Immaculate Virgin “was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory... and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords (see Rv 19: 16) and conqueror of sin and death” (Lumen Gentium, no. 59). In the Virgin taken up into Heaven we contemplate the crowning of her faith, of that journey of faith which she points out to the Church and to each one of us: the One who, at every moment, welcomed the Word of God, is taken up into Heaven, in other words she herself is received by the Son in the “dwelling place” which he prepared for us with his death and Resurrection (see Jn 14: 2-3).

Human life on earth as the First Reading has reminded us is a journey that takes place, constantly, in the intense struggle between the dragon and the woman, between good and evil. This is the plight of human history: it is like a voyage on a sea, often dark and stormy. Mary is the Star that guides us towards her Son Jesus, “the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history” (see Spe Salvi, no. 49) and gives us the hope we need: the hope that we can win, that God has won and that, with Baptism we entered into this victory. We do not succumb definitively: God helps us, he guides us.

This is our hope: this presence of the Lord within us that becomes visible in Mary taken up into Heaven. “The Virgin” in a little while we shall read in the Preface for this Solemnity “that you made to shine out as “a sign of hope and comfort for your people on their pilgrim way’“.

With St Bernard, a mystic who sang the Blessed Virgin’s praises, let us thus invoke her: “We pray you, O Blessed One, for the grace that you found, for those prerogatives that you deserved, for the Mercy you bore, obtain that the One who for your sake deigned to share in our wretchedness and infirmity, through your prayers may make us share in his graces, in his bliss and in his eternal glory, Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who is above all things, Blessed God for ever and ever. Amen” (Sermo 2 “de Adventu”, 5: PL 183, 43).


SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 15 August 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, on the Solemnity of the Assumption into Heaven of the Mother of God, we celebrate the passage from the earthly condition to heavenly blessedness of the One who engendered in the flesh and received in faith the Lord of Life. The veneration of the Virgin Mary has accompanied the path of the Church from the beginning; Marian feast days began to appear already in the fourth century: in some the role of the Virgin in the History of Salvation is exalted; in others the principal moments of her earthly life are celebrated. The meaning of today’s Feast is contained in the final words of the dogmatic definition, proclaimed by Venerable Pius XII on 1 November 1950, the 60th anniversary of which is celebrated this year: “the Immaculate Mother of God, the Ever Virgin, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory” (Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissimus Deus, AAS 44 [1950], 770).

Artists of every epoch have painted and sculpted the sanctity of the Lord’s Mother adorning churches and shrines. Poets, writers and musicians have paid tribute to the Virgin with liturgical hymns and songs. From the East to the West the All Holy is invoked as Heavenly Mother, who holds the Son of God in her arms and under whose protection the whole of humanity finds refuge, with the very ancient prayer, “We shelter under your protection, Holy Mother of God: despise not our petitions in our needs, but deliver us from every danger, O glorious and Blessed Virgin”.

And in the Gospel of today’s Solemnity, St Luke describes the fulfilment of Salvation through the Virgin Mary. She, in whose womb the Almighty became small, after the Angel’s announcement, without any hesitation, makes haste to visit to her cousin Elizabeth to bring to her the Saviour of the world. And, in fact, “when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and [she] was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Lk 1: 41). She recognized the Mother of God in the One “who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1: 45). The two women, who were waiting for the fulfilment of the Divine Promises, had already a foretaste of the joy of the coming of the Kingdom of God, the joy of Salvation.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us trust in the One who as the Servant of God Paul VI affirmed “having been assumed into Heaven, she has not abandoned her mission of intercession and salvation” (Apostolic Exhortation, Marialis Cultus, no. 18). To her, guide of the Apostles, support of Martyrs, light of the Saints, let us address our prayers, imploring that she accompany us in this earthly life, that she help us look to Heaven and that she welcome us one day together with her Son Jesus.


HOLY MASS ON THE SOLEMNITY
OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Thomas of Villanova Parish, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 15 August 2010

Your Eminence, Your Excellency, Distinguished Authorities,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today the Church is celebrating one of the most important feasts of the Liturgical Year dedicated to Mary Most Holy: the Assumption. At the end of her earthly life Mary was taken up, body and soul, into Heaven, that is, into the glory of eternal life, into full and perfect communion with God.

It is 60 years since Venerable Pope Pius XII, on 1 November 1950, solemnly defined this Dogma and although it is somewhat complicated I would like to read the formula of dogmatization. The Pope says: “Hence the revered Mother of God, from all eternity joined in a hidden way with Jesus Christ in one and the same decree of predestination, immaculate in her conception, a most perfect virgin in her divine motherhood, the noble associate of the divine Redeemer who has won a complete triumph over sin and its consequences, finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of Heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendour at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages” (Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, no. 40, 1950).

This then is the nucleus of our faith in the Assumption: we believe that Mary, like Christ her Son, overcame death and is already triumphant in heavenly glory, in the totality of her being, “in body and soul”.

In today’s Second Reading St Paul helps us to shed a little more light on this mystery starting from the central event of human history and of our faith: that is, the event of Christ’s Resurrection which is “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep”. Immersed in his Paschal Mystery, we are enabled to share in his victory over sin and death. Here lies the startling secret and key reality of the whole human saga. St Paul tells us that we are “incorporated” Adam, the first man and the old man, that we all possess the same human heritage to which belong suffering, death and sin. But every day adds something new to this reality that we can all see and live: not only are we part of this heritage of the one human being that began with Adam but we are also “incorporated” in the new man, in the Risen Christ, and thus the life of the Resurrection is already present in us. Therefore this first biological “incorporation” is incorporation into death, it is an incorporation that generates death. The second, new “incorporation”, that is given to us in Baptism is an “incorporation” that gives life. Again, I cite today’s Second Reading: St Paul says: “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the first fruits, then at his coming, those who belong to Christ” (1 Cor 15: 21-24).

Now, what St Paul says of all human beings the Church in her infallible Magisterium says of Mary in a precise and clear manner: the Mother of God is so deeply integrated into Christ’s Mystery that at the end of her earthly life she already participates with her whole self in her Son’s Resurrection. She lives what we await at the end of time when the “last enemy” death will have been destroyed (see 1 Cor 15: 26); she already lives what we proclaim in the Creed: “We look for the Resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come”.

We can then ask ourselves: what are the roots of this victory over death wonderfully anticipated in Mary? Its roots are in the faith of the Virgin of Nazareth, as the Gospel passage we have heard testifies (Lk 1: 39-56): a faith that is obedience to the word of God and total abandonment to the divine action and initiative, in accordance with what the Archangel announced to her. Faith, therefore, is Mary’s greatness, as Elizabeth joyfully proclaims: Mary is “blessed among women” and “blessed is the fruit of [her] womb”, for she is Mother of the Lord” because she believed and lived uniquely the “first” of the Beatitudes, the Beatitude of faith. Elizabeth confesses it in her joy and in that of her child who leaps in her womb: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (v. 45). Dear friends, let us not limit ourselves to admiring Mary in her destiny of glory, as a person very remote from us. No! We are called to look at all that the Lord, in his love, wanted to do for us too, for our final destiny: to live through faith in a perfect communion of love with him and hence to live truly.

In this regard I would like to reflect on an aspect of the affirmation of the dogma where assumption into heavenly glory is mentioned. All of us today are well aware that by the term “Heaven” we are not referring to somewhere in the universe, to a star or such like; no. We mean something far greater and far more difficult to define with our limited human conceptions. With this term “Heaven” we wish to say that God, the God who made himself close to us, does not abandon us in or after death but keeps a place for us and gives us eternity. We mean that in God there is room for us. To understand this reality a little better let us look at our own lives. We all experience that when people die they continue to exist, in a certain way, in the memory and heart of those who knew and loved them. We might say that a part of the person lives on in them but it resembles a “shadow” because this survival in the heart of their loved ones is destined to end. God, on the contrary, never passes away and we all exist by virtue of his love. We exist because he loves us, because he conceived of us and called us to life. We exist in God’s thoughts and in God’s love. We exist in the whole of our reality, not only in our “shadow”. Our serenity, our hope and our peace are based precisely on this: in God, in his thoughts and in his love, it is not merely a “shadow” of ourselves that survives but rather we are preserved and ushered into eternity with the whole of our being in him, in his creator love. It is his Love that triumphs over death and gives us eternity and it is this love that we call “Heaven”: God is so great that he also makes room for us. And Jesus the man, who at the same time is God, is the guarantee for us that the being-man and the being-God can exist and live, the one within the other, for eternity.

This means that not only a part of each one of us will continue to exist, as it were pulled to safety, while other parts fall into ruin; on the contrary it means that God knows and loves the whole of the human being, what we are. And God welcomes into his eternity what is developing and becoming now, in our life made up of suffering and love, of hope, joy and sorrow. The whole of man, the whole of his life, is taken by God and, purified in him, receives eternity. Dear Friends! I think this is a truth that should fill us with deep joy. Christianity does not proclaim merely some salvation of the soul in a vague afterlife in which all that is precious and dear to us in this world would be eliminated, but promises eternal life, “the life of the world to come”. Nothing that is precious and dear to us will fall into ruin; rather, it will find fullness in God. Every hair of our head is counted, Jesus said one day (see Mt 10: 30). The definitive world will also be the fulfilment of this earth, as St Paul says: “Creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom 8: 21). Then we understand that Christianity imparts a strong hope in a bright future and paves the way to the realization of this future. We are called, precisely as Christians, to build this new world, to work so that, one day, it may become the “world of God”, a world that will surpass all that we ourselves have been able to build. In Mary taken up into Heaven, who fully shares in the Resurrection of the Son, we contemplate the fulfilment of the human creature in accordance with “God’s world”.

Let us pray the Lord that he will enable us to understand how precious in his eyes is the whole of our life; may he strengthen our faith in eternal life; make us people of hope who work to build a world open to God, people full of joy who can glimpse the beauty of the future world amidst the worries of daily life and in this certainty live, believe and hope. Amen!


SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Monday, 15 August 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the heart of August Christians of both East and West jointly celebrate the Feast of the Assumption into Heaven of Mary Most Holy. In the Catholic Church the Dogma of the Assumption — as is well known — was proclaimed in the Holy Year of 1950 by my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Pope Pius XII. The roots of this commemoration, however, are deeply embedded in the faith of the early centuries of the Church.

In the East, it is still known today as the “Dormition of the Virgin”. An ancient mosaic in the Basilica of St Mary Major, Rome, that was inspired precisely by the Eastern image of the “Dormitio”, portrays the Apostles, who, alerted by Angels of the end of the earthly life of the Mother of Jesus, gathered at the Virgin’s bedside. In the centre is Jesus, who has a little girl in his arms: she is Mary, who has become “little” for the Kingdom, being taken to Heaven by the Lord.

In the passage of today’s liturgy from St Luke’s Gospel, we read that “in those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah” (Lk 1:39). In those days Mary hastened from Galilee to a little town in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem to go and see her kinswoman Elizabeth. Today we contemplate her going up towards God’s mountain and entering the heavenly Jerusalem, “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1).

The biblical passage of the Book of Revelation, which we read in the liturgy of this Solemnity, speaks of a struggle between the woman and the dragon, between good and evil. St John seems to be presenting to us anew the very first pages of the Book of Genesis that recount the dark and tragic event of the sin of Adam and Eve. Our first parents were defeated by the Evil One; in the fullness of time, Jesus, the new Adam, and Mary, the new Eve, were to triumph over the enemy once and for all, and this is the joy of this day! With Jesus’ victory over evil, inner and physical death are also defeated.

Mary was the first to take in her arms Jesus, the Son of God, become a child; she is now the first to be beside him in the glory of Heaven.

Today we are celebrating a great mystery. It is above all a mystery of hope and joy for all of us: in Mary we see the destination for which are bound all who can interpret their life according to the life of Jesus, who are able to follow him as Mary did. This Feast, then, speaks of our future. It tells us that we too shall be beside Jesus in God’s joy and invites us to take heart, to believe that the power of Christ’s Resurrection can also work in us, making us men and women who seek every day to live as risen ones, bringing the light of goodness into the darkness of the evil in the world.


HOLY MASS ON THE SOLEMNITY
OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Thomas of Villanova Parish, Castel Gandolfo, Monday, 15 August 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are gathered here, once again, to celebrate one of the oldest and best loved of the feasts dedicated to Mary Most Holy: the feast of her Assumption into the glory of Heaven in body and soul, in other words in the whole of her human existence, in the integrity of her person. Thus we have been given the grace of renewing our love for Mary, of admiring her and of praising her for the “great things” which the Almighty worked through her and brought about in her.

In contemplating the Virgin Mary we are granted another grace: the ability to see our own life too in depth. Yes, because our own daily existence, with its problems and hopes, receives light from the Mother of God, from her spiritual journey, from her destiny of glory: a journey and a destination that can and must become, in a certain way, our own journey and our own destination.

Let us allow ourselves to be guided by the passages of Sacred Scripture the liturgy proposes to us today. I would like to reflect in particular on an image we find in the First Reading from the Book of Revelation, which is in fact echoed by Luke’s Gospel: the ark.

In the First Reading we heard: “God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the Ark of his Covenant was seen within his temple” (Rev 11:19). What is the meaning of the ark? What appears?

For the Old Testament, it is the symbol of God’s presence in the midst of his people. However, the symbol has given way to reality. Thus the New Testament tells us that the true ark of the covenant is a living, real person: it is the Virgin Mary. God does not dwell in a piece of furniture, he dwells in a person, in a heart: Mary, the One who carried in her womb the eternal Son of God made man, Jesus our Lord and Saviour.

In the ark — as we know — the two Tables of the Mosaic Law were kept. The Law expressed God’s wish to preserve the Covenant with his People, pointing out the conditions for being faithful to the pact with God in order to conform to God’s will and thereby also to our own profound truth.

Mary is the Ark of the Covenant because she welcomed Jesus within her; she welcomed within her the living Word, the whole content of God’s will, of God’s truth; she welcomed within her the One who is the new and eternal Covenant, which culminated in the offering of his Body and his Blood: a body and blood received through Mary.

Therefore Christian piety rightly turns to Our Lady in the litanies in her honour, invoking her as Foederis Arca, that is, “the Ark of the Covenant”, the Ark of God’s presence, the Ark of the Covenant of love which God desired to establish with the whole of humanity, in Christ, once and for all.

The passage from the Book of Revelation also indicates another important aspect of Mary’s reality. As the living Ark of the Covenant, she has an extraordinary destiny of glory because she is so closely united to the Son whom she welcomed in faith and generated in the flesh, as to share fully in his glory in Heaven.

This is what the words we have heard suggest: “A great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child.... She brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations” (12:1-2; 5).

The greatness of Mary, Mother of God, full of grace, fully docile to the action of the Holy Spirit, already lives in God’s Heaven with her whole being, body and soul. St John Damascene, referring to this mystery in a famous homily, said: “Today the holy Virgin of Virgins is presented in the heavenly temple.... Today the sacred and living Ark of the living God [the Ark], who conceived her Creator himself, takes up her abode in the temple of God, not made by human hands” (Homily II on the Dormition, 2, PG 96, 723); and he continues: “It was meet that she, who had who had sheltered the divine Logos in her own womb, should inhabit the tabernacles of her Son.... The place of the Bride whom the Father had espoused, was in the nuptial chambers of Heaven” (ibid., 14 PG 96, 742).

Today the Church praises God’s immense love for his creature: he chose her as a true “Ark of the Covenant”, as the One who continues to generate and to give Christ the Saviour to humanity, as the One who in Heaven shares in the fullness of the glory and enjoys the very happiness of God and, at the same time, also invites us to become, in our modest way, an “ark” in which the Word of God is present, transformed and quickened by his presence, a place of the presence of God, so that men and women may find God’s closeness in the other person, and thus live in communion with God and know the reality of Heaven.

Luke’s Gospel which we have just heard (see Lk 1:39-56) shows us this living Ark — which is Mary — on the move: after leaving her home in Nazareth, Mary set out for the hill country, making haste to reach a city of Judah and go to the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth. It seems to me important to emphasize the expression “with haste”: God’s things deserve haste, indeed, the only things in the world that deserve haste are precisely those of God, which are truly urgent for our life.

So Mary entered the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth but she did not enter it alone. She entered carrying in her womb the Son, who was God himself, made man. In that house she and her help were of course expected, but the Evangelist leads us to understand that this expectation pointed to another, deeper expection. Zechariah, Elizabeth and the little John the Baptist are in fact the symbol of all the just of Israel, whose hearts, full of hope, awaited the coming of the saving Messiah.

And it was the Holy Spirit who opened Elizabeth’s eyes and caused her to recognize Mary as the true Ark of the Covenant, the Mother of God, who was coming to visit her. Thus her elderly kinswoman welcomed her exclaiming with “a loud cry”: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:42-43).

And it was the Holy Spirit himself who, before her, the One who was carrying God made man, opened the heart of John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb. Elizabeth exclaimed: “For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy” (v. 44).

Here the Evangelist Luke uses the term “skirtan”, that is “to leap”, the same term we find in one of the ancient Greek translations of the Old Testament to describe the dancing of King David in front of the ark of the Lord which had been brought into the city at last (2 Sam 6:16).

In his mother’s womb John the Baptist danced like David before the Ark of the Covenant; like David he recognized: Mary was the new Ark of the Covenant, before which the heart exults with joy, the Mother of God present in the world who does not keep this divine presence to herself but offers it, sharing the grace of God. Thus, — the prayer says — Mary really is the “causa nostrae laetitae”, the “Ark” in whom the Saviour is truly present among us.

Dear brothers and sisters, we are speaking of Mary, but in a certain sense we are also speaking of ourselves, of each one of us: we too are recipients of that immense love which God reserved — of course, in an absolutely unique and unrepeatable way — for Mary. On this Solemnity of the Assumption let us look to Mary: She opens us to hope, to a future full of joy and teaches us the way to achieve it: welcoming in faith: by welcoming her Son with faith; by never losing the friendship with him but letting ourselves be illuminated and guided by his word; by following him every day, even in moments when we feel that our crosses are growing heavy.

Mary, Ark of the Covenant which is in the sanctuary of Heaven, show us with luminous clarity that we are on our way towards our true Home, the communion of joy and peace with God. Amen!


SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Castel Gandolfo, Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the heart of the month of August the Church in the East and in the West celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary Most Holy into Heaven. In the Catholic Church the Dogma of the Assumption by Venerable Pius XII — as we know — was proclaimed during the Holy Year of 1950. The celebration of this mystery of Mary, however, is rooted in the faith and veneration of the first centuries of the Church, through that profound devotion to the Mother of God that gradually developed in the Christian community.

Already by the end of the 4th century and at the start of the 5th, we have testimonies from various authors asserting that Mary was in the glory of God with her entire self, body and soul, but it was in the 6th century that in Jerusalem the Feast of the Mother of God, the Theotokos, culminating with the Council of Ephesus in 431, changed and became the Feast of the Dormition, of the passage, of the transit, of the Assumption of Mary, it became the celebration of the moment in which Mary left this world glorified in soul and body in Heaven, in God.

In order to understand the Assumption we need to look to Easter, to the great Mystery of our Salvation, which marks the passage of Jesus to the glory of the Father through his passion, death and Resurrection. Mary, who bore the Son of God in the flesh, is the creature most immersed in this mystery, redeemed from the first moment of her life, and associated in an entirely special way with the passion and the glory of her Son. The Assumption of Mary into Heaven is thus the Paschal Mystery of Christ completely fulfilled in her. She is intimately united to her Risen Son, the Victor over sin and death, fully conformed to him. But the Assumption is a reality that touches us too, for it points us in a luminous way toward our destiny, that of humanity and of history. In Mary, indeed, we contemplate that reality of glory to which each one of us and the entire Church is called.

The passage of the Gospel according to St Luke which we read during the Liturgy of this Solemnity shows us the path that the Virgin of Nazareth followed in order to be in the glory of God. It is the account of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth (see Lk 1:39-56) in which Our Lady is proclaimed blessed among all women and blessed because she believed in the fulfillment of the words spoken to her by the Lord. And through the hymn of the Magnificat which rises with joy to God, her deep faith shines out. She is among the “poor” and the “humble”, who do not rely on their own strength, but who trust in God, who make room for his action which can do great things through the weak. If the Assumption opens us to the bright future that awaits us, it also strongly invites us to trust ever more in God, to follow his Word, to seek to do his will every day: this is the way that renders us “blessed” on our earthly pilgrimage and the doors of Heaven open to us.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Second Vatican Council tells us: Mary taken up to Heaven, “by her manifold acts of intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into the happiness of their blessed home” (Lumen Gentium, no. 62). Let us invoke the Holy Virgin, that she may be the star which guides our steps to the encounter with her Son on our journey to reach the glory of Heaven, of eternal joy.


HOLY MASS ON THE SOLEMNITY
OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Thomas of Villanova Parish, Castel Gandolfo, Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On 1 November 1950, Venerable Pope Pius XII proclaimed as Dogma that the Virgin Mary “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory”. This truth of faith was known by Tradition, was affirmed by the Fathers of the Church, and was a particularly important aspect in the veneration of the Mother of Christ. Precisely this devotional element, so to speak, was the driving force behind the formulation of this Dogma. The Dogma appears as an act of praise and exaltation of the Holy Virgin. It also emerges from the text of the Apostolic Constitution, where it affirms that the Dogma is proclaimed for “the honour of her Son... for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church”. What was already celebrated in the veneration and devotion of the People of God as the highest and most permanent glorification of Mary was thus expressed in the form of a dogmas; the act of the proclamation of the Assumption was presented almost as a liturgy of faith. And in the Gospel which we have just heard, Mary herself prophetically pronounces a few words that orientate us in this perspective. She says: “For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed” (Lk 1:48). It is a prophecy for the whole history of the Church. These words of the Magnificat, recorded by St Luke, indicate that praising the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, intimately united to Christ her Son, regards the Church of all ages and of all places. The fact that the Evangelist noted these words presupposes that the glorification of Mary was already present in the time of St Luke and he considered it to be a duty and a commitment of the Christian community for all generations. Mary’s words tell us that it is a duty of the Church to remember the greatness of Our Lady for the faith. This Solemnity is an invitation to praise God, and to look upon the greatness of Our Lady, for we know who God is in the faces of those who belong to him.

But why is Mary glorified by her Assumption into Heaven? St Luke, as we have heard, sees the roots of the exaltation and praise of Mary in Elizabeth’s words: “Blessed is she who believed” (Lk 1:45). And the Magnificat, this canticle to God, alive and active in history is a hymn of faith and love, which springs from the heart of the Virgin.

She lived with exemplary fidelity and kept in the inmost depths of her heart the words of God to his people, the promises he made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, making them the content of her prayer: the Word of God in the Magnificat became the word of Mary, the lamp for her journey, thus preparing her to receive even in her womb the Word of God made flesh. Today’s Gospel passage recalls this presence of God in history and in the unfolding of events; in particular, there is a reference to the Second Book of Samuel Chapter Six (6:1-15), in which David moves the Holy Ark of the Covenant. The comparison is clear to the Evangelist: Mary expecting the birth of her Son Jesus is the Holy Ark that contains the presence of God, a presence that is a source of consolation, of total joy. John, in fact, leaps in Elizabeth’s womb, just as David danced before the Ark. Mary is the “visit” of God that creates joy. Zechariah, in his song of praise says explicitly: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people” (Lk 1:68). The house of Zechariah experienced the visit of God by the unexpected birth of John the Baptist, but above all by the presence of Mary, who bore within her womb the Son of God.

But now let us ask ourselves: how does the Assumption of Mary help our journey? The first answer is: in the Assumption we see that in God there is room for man, God himself is the house with many rooms of which Jesus speaks (see Jn 14:2); God is man’s home, in God there is God’s space. And Mary, by uniting herself, united to God, does not distance herself from us. She does not go to an unknown galaxy, but whoever approaches God comes closer, for God is close to us all; and Mary, united to God, shares in the presence of God, is so close to us, to each one of us.

There is a beautiful passage from St Gregory the Great on St Benedict that we can apply to Mary too. St Gregory the Great says that the heart of St Benedict expanded so much that all creation could enter it. This is even truer of Mary: Mary, totally united to God, has a heart so big that all creation can enter this heart, and the ex-votos in every part of the earth show it. Mary is close, she can hear us, she can help us, she is close to everyone of us. In God there is room for man and God is close, and Mary, united to God, is very close; she has a heart as great as the heart of God.

But there is also another aspect: in God not only is there room for man; in man there is room for God. This too we see in Mary, the Holy Ark who bears the presence of God. In us there is space for God and this presence of God in us, so important for bringing light to the world with all its sadness, with its problems. This presence is realized in the faith: in the faith we open the doors of our existence so that God may enter us, so that God can be the power that gives life and a path to our existence. In us there is room, let us open ourselves like Mary opened herself, saying: “Let your will be done, I am the servant of the Lord”. By opening ourselves to God, we lose nothing. On the contrary, our life becomes rich and great.

And so, faith and hope and love are combined. Today there is much discussion on a better world to be awaited: it would be our hope. If and when this better world comes, we do not know, I do not know. What is certain is that a world which distances itself from God does not become better but worse. Only God’s presence can guarantee a good world. Let us leave it at that.

One thing, one hope is certain: God expects us, waits for us, we do not go out into a void, we are expected. God is expecting us and on going to that other world we find the goodness of the Mother, we find our loved ones, we find eternal Love. God is waiting for us: this is our great joy and the great hope that is born from this Feast. Mary visits us, and she is the joy of our life and joy is hope.

What is there to say then? A great heart, the presence of God in the world, room for God within us and room for us in God, hope, being expected: this is the symphony of this Feast, the instruction that meditating on this Solemnity gives us. Mary is the dawn and the splendour of the Church triumphant; she is the consolation and the hope of people still on the journey, it says in today’s Preface.

Let us entrust ourselves to her Motherly intercession, that she may obtain that he strengthen our faith in eternal life; may she help us to live the best way the time that God has given us with hope. May it be a Christian hope, that is not only nostalgia for Heaven, but a living and active desire for God who is here in the world, a desire for God that makes us tireless pilgrims, nourishing in us the courage and the power of faith, which at the same time is the courage and the power of love. Amen. 



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