Sunday Sermon for August 15, 2021, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Year B
Readings: Rev 11:19a, 12:1-6a, 10ab; 1Cor 15:20-267; Lk 1:39-56
Today we have the joy of celebrating the Assumption of our Blessed Lady body and soul into Heaven. This is a wonderful day for humanity because we see the promises of our Lord being fulfilled in a human person. While it is true to say that in Jesus our humanity has been taken into Heaven, Jesus is a divine Person not a human person, so it makes sense that He is in Heaven, but we might still doubt whether or not His promises will be fulfilled in us. This feast is a resounding “Yes” to that question.
Some people will suggest that this feast is something not contained in Scripture and, therefore, we should not be celebrating it. What I hope to show today is that this is in Scripture and we need to be celebrating this feast. Having said this, it is important to note that nowhere does Scripture say that our Lady was assumed into Heaven. Of course, the Scriptures are about Jesus, not about Mary, but one would think that something of such great importance would be mentioned in the Bible. It is.
Let me explain. In the first reading we hear about our Lady going to visit her relative, St. Elizabeth. The Archangel Gabriel had revealed to the Blessed Mother that Elizabeth was with child; Mary set out very quickly to visit Elizabeth and to care for her in the last few months of her pregnancy. Most Jewish people would notice something that most of us might miss: that our Lady is being presented as the Ark of the Covenant. There are several points St. Luke makes that parallel what we read about the transference of the Ark of the Covenant by King David from the house of Obed-Edom to the Temple in Jerusalem.
Recall that the Ark was being brought back to Jerusalem after the Philistines had captured it and had sent it back to the Israelites. David stopped the procession when the son of the priest died after touching the Ark. The Law specifically forbade the touching of the Ark by anyone; the holiness of the Ark would cause death to any sinner who would dare to touch it. The Ark was placed at the house of a man named Obed-Edom for several months, but when David saw that Obed-Edom as being blessed by God, he ordered the Ark to be brought back up to the Temple.
This path taken to bring the Ark up to the Temple is the same path our Lady took when she went up “to the hill county,” that is, up to Jerusalem and through it, to Ein Karem where Zechariah and Elizabeth lived. The Ark of the Covenant had not been seen by the Jewish people for over 500 years, since the time of the Prophet Jeremiah who, as we read in the First Book of Maccabees, put the Ark into a cave on Mount Nebo and closed the mouth of the cave with rocks.
Recall that Jesus Himself is the New Covenant. The stone tablets of the old Covenant were placed inside the Ark of the Covenant. Jesus was in His Mother’s womb at the time Mary went to visit Elizabeth, so Mary is being shown by St. Luke as the new Ark of the Covenant. In the first reading we are told that St. John saw the Ark of the Covenant. At the end of chapter 11 and the beginning of chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation, St. John describes the vision he was given of the Ark. What would be a huge surprise to his Jewish readers, is that the Ark is not described as a box made of acacia wood and overlaid with pure gold. Instead, St. John describes the Ark as a woman, clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head, a crown of twelve stars.
While we do not have time to explore this, the reference to the “woman” points back to Genesis 3:15 where the Lord told Satan that there would be enmity between the woman and the vile creature. This same reference must be understood in John 19 where we hear about our Lady being at the foot of the Cross and our Lord calling her “woman” from the Cross. It is there that the battle mentioned in today’s first reading is taking place. The battle between the woman and the dragon happened at Calvary.
The woman, the Ark, is now in Heaven. Her offspring, us, also have the promise of Heaven, as we read in the second reading. We have to wait for our Lord’s second coming, but the promise is certain and is already fulfilled in our Mother as we rightly celebrate in this glorious Feast of her Assumption.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.