Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6, 10; I Corinthians 15:20-26; Luke 1:39-56
A great sign appeared in the heavens: a woman clothed in the sun with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars, we heard from the Book of Revelation. And in the Gospel we heard of an adolescent named Mary who ascended the hill country of Judea to visit her cousin Elizabeth.
What might these contrasting readings tell us about the Assumption?
Bothe readings describe a journey, one mythic, the other prosaic. Neither are without peril though the girl in Luke’s Gospel is stalked by no dragon!
But even in our day, a girl, unmarried but pregnant, is hounded by gossip and insecurity–dragon enough for any vulnerable teen. Yet she doesn’t hesitate to seek out her cousin, respectably married but oddly pregnant in her old age–another subject of sly gossip–to help and support her. They need each other and their unconventional experience not only bonds them but gives them a profound understanding of one another, an understanding so deep that it overflows, not in explanation but a rapturous canticle, praising God’s creative faithfulness. Their startling condition is not an embarrassing predicament but God’s grace. The standards and expectations of the world have been wrong again.
The mythic story may lack those personal touches that impress themselves on our hearts, but the journey of this woman is no different. She, too, is dependent on support and intervention, whether it comes from mother earth, who sustains her in the wilderness or drinks up the flood spewed out by the dragon; the angels who battle the dragon; or the Eternal One who grants her eagle wings. Like Mary in Luke’s Gospel, she is not passive: she must be alert and responsive to bring forth new life, a whole new kind of life that bridges our human existence with the throne of God.
Mary’s vocation may be different from yours and mine, as her starting point and her graces are different. But are our lives, our callings all that detached from hers? Are we not, too, created to conceive the Word of God and, in some sense, incarnate God-with-us? And is our journey substantially different? I think of a verse of the Scottish poet Kenneth White: only long miles of strangeness/ can lead us to our home.
Isn’t that the core of Mary’s Assumption? Bringing all her gifts–her being, her vocation, her worries and sufferings, her responsiveness and trust–home to the depths of God, where all is consummated and fulfilled?