Readings: Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6, 10; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26; Luke 1:39-56
The Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name.
These are the words of Mary’s Magnificat, her song of praise that we pray every day at Vespers. How fitting that these words are the Gospel today for the Church’s celebration of Mary’s Assumption into heaven. The Dormition of the Theotokos, the falling asleep of the Mother of God, is what the ancient Church of the East has always called this great feast.
I tell you a great mystery, Saint Paul wrote to the Corinthians, just a few paragraphs further from the passage we heard read in today’s liturgy. Our present perishable nature must put on imperishability, and this mortal nature must put on immortality…O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? These words, too, are Mary’s song on this day. This was her sure faith in what her divine Son accomplished for the world.
This same faith as lived by each of the brothers now lying in our monastery cemetery. This same faith is lived by each one of us here now, who we know will one day lie next to them as we await our Lord’s promise of resurrection. This faith is why we have chosen to embrace the monastic way of life. Were this not our faith, we would be the most stupid of people. But we are not so stupid, are we? We are only being foolish with God’s foolishness. Today, the feast of Mary’s Assumption, is the forty-ninth anniversary of my solemn profession and the fiftieth anniversary of Fr. Maurice’s solemn profession to God. What glorious foolishness!
We will all fall asleep in the Lord, as Mary today slept in death, as Jesus himself slept so brief a time within his tomb. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? For as Jesus Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, just so was Mary raised up by her own Son. And so shall we also be raised. We believe that having died with Christ, we shall return to life with him. If we imitate his death, we shall also imitate his resurrection.
And not only ourselves, brothers. Remember Saint Paul’s words to the Christians of Rome. The whole created world eagerly awaits the revelation of the children of God. For the world itself will be freed from its slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.Just now all creation groans and is in agony and we ourselves , although we have the Spirit as first fruits, groan inwardly as we await the redemption of our bodies. The mystery of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, as in the Ascension of her Son, prefigures the cosmic redemption of all creation. How precious to God is his creation.
Our monastic vocation is a great mystery. Just as the Virgin Mother of God was taken up into heaven to be the pattern of the Church in its perfection and a sign of hope for all peoples, so also are we monks. No one of us lives for himself nor dies without meaning to others. We live for God. If God would have us to be a sign of hope, a pattern of Christian life, then that is God’s wisdom for him to dispose.
We know well enough that we live as earthenware vessels. But on this feast we look to the one who is truly the pattern of the Church in its perfection and a sure sign of hope–indeed the sign of our life and of our sweetness as well. In the mystery of the Assumption of Mary into heaven, death has been transformed for us into our life and even our sweetness.
On this great feast that we celebrate, this marvelous mystery of the Mother of the Lord raised body and soul into heaven, we take part in the most blessed hope. We trust that this woman would not go before us without also assuring that all her people, her children whom God had given her, would assuredly come to be with her–that where I am, you also may be, O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.