Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Year C-2010

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A princess arrayed in Ophir’s gold comes to stand at your right hand (Ps. 45:10)

The identity of the woman of the first reading has been debated (1). She may be the personification of the heavenly Jerusalem or Israel. She may refer to the church also or, maybe, even to an individual member of the church.

Today, however, as it celebrates the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the church clearly wants the faithful to see the “woman, clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars,” as Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Moreover, the church obviously holds up the woman as Mary in her moment of ultimate triumph, that is to say, when “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory” (2).

But the woman of the first reading—notwithstanding that she is given the attributes of a high goddess of old—is going through the pains of childbirth. Worse still, she is threatened by a monster of a dragon that is ready to devour her child when she gives birth.

It appears, then, that triumph, from the viewpoint of Christian revelation, is not incompatible with suffering or persecution. The triumph of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s assumption is a manifestation of the sufficiency of God’s grace for the weak, the insulted, the persecuted, those in hardships and difficulties, as divine power is made perfect in weakness. The assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is an instance of grace increasing all the more where sin increases (2 Cor. 12:8-10; Rom. 5:20). It points to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who makes us rich by his poverty (2 Cor. 8:9). It is a sharing, as the church suggests through the second reading, in Jesus’ being raised from the dead, in his destroying our death by dying and restoring our life by rising.

God, all powerful and provident, in other words, always hears the cries of the poor and comes repeatedly to their rescue in due time, or even, so to speak, in the nick of time. Thus, the woman’s child is caught up to God and his throne; she herself flees into the desert where she finds a shelter prepared by God. But the harassment and persecution continue. Yet God always remains in control and sees to it that good ultimately triumphs over evil. The almighty Lord looks kindly on his lowly servants and does great things for them. He lifts up the lowly and fills the hungry with good things. The bloated, however, and the full of it—of themselves, of deceptive schemes of buying and selling, of insatiable greed and consumerism—who consider themselves self-sufficient, these the Lord lets fall by and under their own weight.

The Lord’s lowly servant Mary, then, “glorified in body and soul in heaven, … the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come” and also “the mother of the members of Christ” and “a pre-eminent and singular member of the Church, and … its type and excellent exemplar in faith and charity,” stands out as a resplendent “sign of sure hope and solace to the people of God during its sojourn on earth” (3). And venerating her and praising God for her, as St. Vincent de Paul did, for her total openness and obedience to God and effective service (4), we raise the cup of salvation and offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord (cf. Ps. 116:13, 17), we offer the sacrifice, the self-emptying, that made it all possible.


(1) Cf. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1990) 63:42.
(2) Munificentissimus Deus, 44, (accessed August 13, 2010).
(3) Lumen Gentium, 53 and 68 at (accessed August 13, 2010).
(4) Thomas F. McKenna, C.M., “Mary in the Vincentian Tradition,” (accessed August 13, 2010).