Commentary on the Gospel of
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Mass during the Day
Today’s readings accompany the solemnity of the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven. Pope Pius XII formally announced the assumption as a dogma of the Church in 1950, stating: “We pronounce, declare and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that the immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul to heavenly glory.” (Munificentissimus Deus, ¶ 44, November 1, 1950).
Although this pronouncement comes recently in Christian history, it follows from the ancient beliefs and practices of Christians through many centuries. Those who are curious about this teaching may find it profitable to read through Munificentissimus Deus. It will build your faith and enhance your understanding of Mary’s unique role in salvation history.
The readings for today reflect the honored position of Mary as the mother of our Lord, Jesus Christ and his central role in salvation history. Unlike Adam, whose sin would confer death upon all mankind, Christ as the New Adam confers redemption and eternal life instead. My family and I like to listen to the music of Hildegard von Bingen, a twelfth-century saint whose music has been preserved and reinterpreted in our modern age. One of her songs recounts the contrast with Adam. Although beautiful in Latin, the translation is also stunning in its clarity: “Hail, hail! From your womb came another life of which Adam had stripped his sons.” Adam’s sin stands in contrast to the faithful yes of Mary.
Today’s gospel reading picks up after Mary’s encounter with the angel Gabriel, who announced the good news that she would bear a son. Mary journeys in haste to the house of her relatives, where she greets her pregnant cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth prophesies these familiar words to Mary: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Elizabeth also stated, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
Mary’s response reflects a mature disposition. She does not falsely deny that something significant was happening and she did not dismiss baby John’s movement in Elizabeth’s womb as mere coincidence. Mary instead responds with faith and joyfulness, affirming the significance of God’s works and pointing attention not to herself, but to the greatness, goodness, and mercy of God.
On Creighton’s campus, a statue of Mary and Elisabeth can be found which reflects this meeting so well. These two women shared joy and the deepest of spiritual mysteries together, after being invited to participate in the Divine plan in ways that are singularly important. They could not know how all the details of this story would play out, but they responded with great trust and confidence that God was doing s work that was intended to reach all people with his love.
Let us pause together to ponder the depth of this trust and confidence in Divine goodness. And let us seek the prayers of those who have passed through such a journey in faithfulness, so that we may resemble their humility, faith, and confidence in God. Amen.