My dear brothers
and sisters in Christ:
As we celebrate this Year of the Eucharist, let us contemplate the commitment to God made by His Mother Mary, Our Mother. By her “fiat,” “Thy will be done,” given in response to the Angel Gabriel’s announcement that Mary was to become the tabernacle of the Most High God, Mary conceived in her womb Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh (cf. Luke 1:26-38).
During this month (August), we commemorate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a holy day of obligation. On this solemnity we rejoice that: “Finally, the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be then more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians …” (Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 966).
In his apostolic constitution, Munificentissimus Deus of November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII proclaimed this tenet of our Catholic faith, which defined “the centuries-long tradition of belief in this mystery” (New Catholic Encyclopedia, Catholic University of America ©1967, p. 971). The Holy Father embraced the prayer of the ancient Byzantine Liturgy, Troparion, Feast of the Dormition: “In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 966).
In the midst of summer activities, vacations and other recreations, we are reminded of our Christian commitment to follow Christ in every season, as did Mary. Once Mary said “yes” to becoming God’s mother, she accompanied Jesus throughout His entire earthly life. “Psychologists comment on the fact that the original unity between mother and child represents one of the best examples of communion between two persons” (Romanus Cessario, O.P., The Seven Joys of Mary, p. 23).
This union with Jesus Christ resulting from Mary’s maternity makes her intimately involved in the joys and sufferings that are a part of every life. “The closer a person is to God, the closer he or she is to people. We see this in Mary. The fact that she is totally with God is the reason why she is so close to human beings. For this reason she can be the Mother of every consolation and every help, a Mother whom everyone can dare to address in any kind of need in weakness and in sin, for she has understanding for everything and is for everyone the open power of creative goodness” (Benedict XVI, Mary, pp. 66-67).
Certainly Mary, who gave birth to her Son in a manger “because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7), understands the plight of the homeless, the abandoned and the poor. She unites her heart to the heart of the refugee fleeing persecution from hatred and violence, as she and Joseph fled with the Child Jesus to Egypt to escape Herod who sought to destroy the Christ. What greater pain could have pierced Mary’s heart than the pain she endured at Golgotha! “Our Lady … on Calvary sealed the ‘yes’ she pronounced at Nazareth. United to Christ, Witness of the Father’s love, Mary lived martyrdom of the soul” (Benedict XVI, op. cit., p. 115).
As the Sacred Heart of her Son beats with love for all who implore and beg His merciful help, so too the Immaculate Heart of His Mother beats with love for her children who beg her intercession in the most desperate situations. “From the Annunciation to the Cross, Mary is the one who received the Word made flesh within her and then silenced in death. It is she, lastly, who took into her arms the lifeless body of the one who truly loved his own ‘to the end’ (John 13:1)” (Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, No. 33, February 22, 2007). Mary takes into her arms every parent who has lost a child in sickness, violence, war, condemnation and execution. How ironic, that Mary’s tragic loss of her Son would make her heart a reflection of her Son’s loving heart that brings hope to the hopeless, carrying them with her Son to the threshold of eternity.
It was at the darkest hour of humanity, at the crucifixion of Jesus, when from His wounded side there flowed out living waters of compassion and love (cf. Preface of the Sacred Heart), that Christ said to “the disciple whom he loved, ‘Behold, your mother’” (John 19:26-27). “In that disciple we are all represented: the Lord entrusts us to the loving and tender hands of the Mother, that we might feel her support in facing and overcoming the difficulties of our human and Christian journey; to never be afraid of the struggle, to face it with the help of the Mother” (Pope Francis, Pope Francis Speaks to Our Hearts, p. 108).
I pray that August 15 will not be just another day and that the Solemnity of Mary’s Assumption will not be forgotten. The needs of our world, our nation, state and communities are many, and require our prayers offered to God through the intercession of Our Mother. “We have a Mother in Heaven, Heaven is open. Heaven has a heart” (Benedict XVI, op.cit., p. 60).
Begging the intercession of Our Mother Mary and our patron, St. John Fisher, I remain, in this Year of the Eucharist,
Devotedly yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend Salvatore R. Matano
Bishop of Rochester