On this day, a Holy Day of Obligation, we recall Our Lady's being assumed
into Heaven. Though the Church has always believed in the
Assumption of Mary, the dogma was only formally defined by Pope Pius XII
in 1950 in his Bull Munificentissimus Deus. Note that Mary was
assumed into Heaven -- taken up by the power of God, like Elias
and Enoch -- while Christ ascended into Heaven under His own
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the date of Mary's dormition (her "falling asleep" into death) is
placed from anywhere between 3 and 15 years after Our Lord's
Ascension, when she had lived seventy-two years. Most beautifully, the cause of her death was neither disease, nor violence, nor senescence; it was, according to tradition, love -- a desire to be reunited with her Son. After three days in the tomb, her body and soul were reunited, and she was assumed by the power of God, whereupon, according to Apocalypse 8:1, "there was silence in heaven, as it were for half an hour." The site of these events is remembered either as Jerusalem, where her tomb has been placed since
around the 6th century, or Ephesus. At
any rate, St. John Damascene (John of Damascus, A.D. 676 - 754/787) writes:
St. Juvenal, Bishop
of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451), made known to the Emperor
Marcian and Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God,
that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when
opened, upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles
concluded that the body was taken up to heaven.
According to tradition,
however, Our Lady's tomb was not exactly found empty; lilies and roses
were found where her body "should" have been.
This Feast is associated with herbs and fruits, and the Roman Ritual includes
a blessing for such. In some parishes and chapels, congregants will bring
fresh flowers to adorn the church in Mary's honor, and will bring the same
along with fruit and herbs -- especially healing herbs -- to be blessed and
take home. The main part of the blessing reads:
Deus, qui cælum, terram, mare, visibilia et invisibilia verbo tuo ex
nihilo creasti, quique herbas, arboresque ad usus hominum animaliumque terram
gignere, et unumquodque juxta sementem in semetipso fructum habere
præcepisti; atque non solum ut herbæ animantibus ad victum, sed
ægris etiam corporibus prodessent ad medicamentum, tua ineffabili pietate
concessisti: te supplici mente et ore deprecamur, ut has diversi generis
herbas et fructus tua clementia benedicas, et supra naturalem a te inditam
virtutem, eis benedictionis tuæ novæ gratiam infundas; ut ad
usum hominibus et jumentis in nomine tuo applicatæ, omnium morborum
et adversitatum efficiantur præsidium. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum,
Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per
omnia sæcula sæculorum. .
God, who by Thy Word hast created out of nothing heaven, earth, sea, visible
and invisible things; who hast commanded the earth to bring forth herbs and
trees for the use of men and animals and for them to have fruit each according
to its kind; and who hast granted out of Thine unspeakable mercy for these
to serve not only as food for the living, but as medicine for sick bodies:
with mind and mouth we humbly implore Thee to bless with Thy clemency these
herbs and fruits of various kinds, and to pour forth upon their natural power
already given by Thee the grace of Thy new blessing; that when used by men
and beasts who apply them in Thy name, they may provide protection against
all disease and adversity. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth
and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God unto endless
Oremus. Deus, qui
per Moysen famulum tuum mandasti filiis Israel, ut manipulos novorum fructuum
benedicendos deferrent ad sacerdotes, tollerentque fructus arboris
pulcherrimæ, et lætarentur coram te Domino Deo suo: adesto propitius
invocationibus nostris, et infunde tuæ benedictionis abundantiam super
nos, et super manipulos novarum frugum, novarum herbarum, et fructuum
collectionem, quæ cum gratiarum actione tibi repræsentamus, et
in nomine tuo in hac sollemnitate benedicimus; et concede, ut hominibus,
pecoribus, pecudibus et jumentis contra morbos, pestes, ulcera, maleficia,
incantationes, veneficia serpentum, et aliorum venenosorum animalium et bestiarum
morsus, nec non quæcumque venena, remedium præstant; atque contra
diabolicas illusiones, et machinationes, et fraudes tutamen ferant, in quocumque
loco positum vel portatum aut habitum aliquid ex eis fuerit: quatenus cum
manipulis bonorum operum, meritis beatæ Mariæ Virginis, cujus
Assumptionis festum colimus, quo ipsa assumpta est, suscipi mereamur. Per
Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum.
Let us pray. O
God, who by Moses Thy servant didst command the children of Israel to carry
their sheaves of new fruits to the priests for a blessing, to take the finest
fruits of the orchards, and to make merry before Thee, the Lord their God:
Kindly hear our supplications, and pour forth the abundance of Thy blessing
upon us and upon these sheaves of new grain, new herbs, and assortment of
fruits, which we gratefully present to Thee and which we bless on this feast
in Thy name. And grant that men, cattle, sheep, and beasts of burden may
find in them a remedy against sickness, pestilence, sores, injuries, spells,
the poison of snakes, and the bites of other venomous and non-venomous creatures.
And may they bring protection against diabolical illusions, machinations,
and deceptions wherever they are kept or carried, or with whatever arrangement
is made of them: that with sheaves of good works and through the merits of
the Blessed Virgin Mary whose Feast of the Assumption we celebrate, we may
deserve to be lifted up to heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ.
|R . Amen.
Oremus. Deus, qui
virgam Jesse, Genetricem Filii tui Domini nostri Jesu Christi, hodierna die
ad cælorum fastigia ideo evexisti, ut per ejus suffragia et patrocinia
fructum ventris illius, eundem Filium tuum, mortalitati nostræ
communicares: te supplices exoramus; ut ejusdem Filii tui virtute, ejusque
Genetricis glorioso patrocinio, istorum terræ fructuum præsidiis
per temporalem ad æternam salutem disponamur. Per eundem Dominum nostrum.
Let us pray. O
God, who on this day didst raise up to the heights of heaven the rod of Jesse,
the mother of Thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ, that through her prayers and
patronage Thou mightest communicate to our mortality the Fruit of her womb,
Thy Son: we humbly pray that by the power of Thy Son and the glorious patronage
of His Mother, we may be so affected by the aid of these fruits of the land
as to proceed from temporal to eternal welfare. Through the same Jesus Christ.
Dei omnipotentis, Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, descendat super has
creaturas, et maneat semper.
||And may the
blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, descend upon these
creatures and remain forever.
The giving of
these blessed herbs, fruit baskets, and flowers and is a lovely custom of
the day, and our prayer is that we emulate Mary by using the blessed herbs
to bring healing to the world.
In some coastal areas, the seas are also blessed on this day, especially
in fishing communties. The passages from the 21st chapter of the Gospel of
St. John in which Jesus went fishing with His Apostles are read, along with
sections of Luke 5. The Magnificat is prayed and then the sea is sprinkled
with Holy Water and the Sign of the Cross made over it. It is believed that
to swim in the waters blessed on this day is curative.
As on all Marian feasts, praying the Little Crown
of the Blessed Virgin, the Glorious Mysteries of the
Rosary, the Litany
of Loreto, the Akathistos Hymn to the
Theotokos, etc., would be most appropriate. (you can download this Litany,
in Microsoft Word .doc format, in
English or in
See also the Queenship of Mary (31 May)
to read about our honoring Our Lady as Queen, crowned after her
Sermon II on
the Dormition of Mary
By St. John Damascene (John of Damascus), (A.D. 676 - 754/787)
There is no one
in existence who is able to praise worthily the holy death of God's Mother,
even if he should have a thousand tongues and a thousand mouths. Not if all
the most eloquent tongues could be united would their praises be sufficient.
She is greater than all praise. Since, however, God is pleased with the efforts
of a loving zeal, and the Mother of God with what concerns the service of
her Son, suffer me now to revert again to her praises. This is in obedience
to your orders, most excellent pastors, so dear to God, and we call upon
the Word made flesh of her to come to our assistance. He gives speech to
every mouth which is opened for Him. He is her sole pleasure and adornment.
We know that in celebrating her praises we pay off our debt, and that in
so doing we are again debtors, so that the debt is ever beginning afresh.
It is fitting that we should exalt her who is above all created things, governing
them as Mother of the God who is their Creator, Lord, and Master. Bear with
me you who hang upon the divine words, and receive my good will. Strengthen
my desire, and be patient with the weakness of my words. It is as if a man
were to bring a violet of royal purple out of season, or a fragrant rose
with buds of different hues, or some rich fruit of autumn to a mighty potentate
who is divinely appointed to rule over men. Every day he sits at a table
laden with every conceivable dish in the perfumed courts of his palace. He
does not look at the smallness of the offering, or at its novelty so much
as he admires the good intention, and with reason. This he would reward with
an abundance of gifts and favours. So we, in our winter of poverty, bring
garlands to our Queen, and prepare a flower of oratory for the feast of praise.
We break our mind's stony desire with iron, pressing, as it were, the unripe
grapes. And may you receive with more and more favour the words which fall
upon your eager and listening ears.
What shall we offer the Mother of the Word if not our words? Like rejoices
in like and in what it loves. Thus, then, making a start and loosening the
reins of my discourse, I may send it forth as a charger ready equipped for
the race. But do Thou, O Word of God, be my helper and auxiliary, and speak
wisdom to my unwisdom. By Thy word make my path clear, and direct my course
according to Thy good pleasure, which is the end of all wisdom and discernment.
Today the holy Virgin of Virgins is presented in the heavenly temple. Virginity
in her was so strong as to be a consuming fire. It is forfeited in every
case by child-birth. But she is ever a virgin, before the event, in the birth
itself, and afterwards. To-day the sacred and living ark of the living God,
who conceived her Creator Himself, takes up her abode in the temple of God,
not made by hands. David, her forefather, rejoices. Angels and Archangels
are in jubilation, Powers exult, Principalities and Dominations, Virtues
and Thrones are in gladness: Cherubim and Seraphim magnify God. Not the least
of their Praise is it to refer praise to the Mother of glory. To-day the
holy dove, the pure and guileless soul, sanctified by the Holy Spirit, putting
off the ark of her body, the life-giving receptacle of Our Lord, found rest
to the soles of her feet, taking her flight to the spiritual world, and dwelling
securely in the sinless country above. To-day the Eden of the new Adam receives
the true paradise, in which sin is remitted and the tree of life growl, and
our nakedness is covered. For we are no longer naked and uncovered, and unable
to bear the splendour of the divine likeness. Strengthened with the abundant
grace of the Spirit, we shall no longer betray our nakedness in the words:
"I have Put off my garment, how shall I put it on?" The serpent, by whose
deceitful promise we were likened to brute beasts, did not enter into this
paradise. He, the only begotten Son of God, God himself, of the same substance
as the Father, took His ] human nature of the pure Virgin. Being constituted
a man, He made mortality immortal, and was clothed as a man. Putting aside
corruption, He was indued with the incorruptibility of the Godhead.
Today the spotless Virgin, untouched by earthly affections, and all heavenly
in her thoughts, was not dissolved in earth, but truly entering heaven, dwells
in the heavenly tabernacles. Who would be wrong to call her heaven, unless
indeed he truly said that she is greater than heaven in surpassing dignity?
The Lord and Creator of heaven, the Architect of all things beneath the earth
and above, of creation, visible and invisible, Who is not circumvented by
place (if that which surrounds things is rightly termed place), created Himself,
without human co-operation, an Infant in her. He made her a rich treasure-house
of His all-pervading and alone uncircumscribed Godhead, subsisting entirely
in her without passion, remaining entire in His universality and Himself
uncircumscribed. To-day the life-giving treasury and abyss of charity (I
know not how to trust my lips to speak of it) is hidden in immortal death.
She meets it without fear, who conceived death's destroyer, if indeed we
may call her holy and vivifying departure by the name of death. For how could
she, who brought life to all, be under the dominion of death ? But she obeys
the law of her own Son, and inherits this chastisement as a daughter of the
first Adam, since her Son, who is the life, did not refuse it. As the Mother
of the living God, she goes through death to Him. For if God said: "Unless
the first man put out his hand to take and taste of the tree of life, he
shall live for ever," how shall she, who received the Life Himself, without
beginning or end, or finite vicissitudes, not live for ever.
Of old the Lord God banished from the garden of Eden our first parents after
their disobedience, when they had dulled the eye of their heart through their
sin, and weakened their mind's discernment, and had fallen into death-like
apathy. But, now, shall not paradise receive her, who broke the bondage of
all passion, sowed the seed of obedience to God and the Father, and was the
beginning of life to the whole human race ? Will not heaven open its gates
to her with rejoicing ? Yes, indeed. Eve listened to the serpent, adopted
his suggestion, was caught by the lure of false and deceptive pleasure, and
was condemned to pain and sorrow, and to bear children in suffering. With
Adam she received the sentence of death, and was placed in the recesses of
Limbo. How can death claim as its prey this truly blessed one, who listened
to God's word in humility, and was filled with the Spirit, conceiving the
Father's gift through the archangel, bearing without concupiscence or the
co-operation of man the Person of the Divine Word, who fills all things,
bringing Him forth, without the pains of childbirth, being wholly united
to God? How could Limbo open its gates to her ? How could corruption touch
the life-giving body ? These are things quite foreign to the soul and body
of God's Mother. Death trembled before her. In approaching her Son, death
had learnt experience from His sufferings, and had grown wiser. The gloomy
descent to hell was not for her, but a joyous, easy, and sweet passage to
heaven. If, as Christ, the Life and the Truth says: "Wherever I am, there
is also my minister," how much more shall not His mother be with Him? She
brought Him forth without pain, and her death, also, was painless. The death
of sinners is terrible, for in it, sin, the cause of death, is sacrificed.
What shall we say of her if not that she is the beginning of perpetual life.
Precious indeed is the death of His saints to the Lord God of powers. More
than precious is the passing away of God's Mother. Now let the heavens and
the angels rejoice: let the earth and men be full of gladness. Let the air
resound with song and canticle, and dark night put off its gloom, and emulate
the brightness of day through the scintillating stars. The living city of
the Lord God is assumed from God's temple, the visible Sion, and kings bring
forth His most precious gift, their mother, to the heavenly Jerusalem, that
is to say, the apostles constituted princes by Christ, over all the earth,
accompany the ever virginal Mother of God.
It seems to me not superfluous to bring forward and insist on the past types
of this holy one, the Mother of God. These types succinctly announced the
Divine Child whom we have received. I look upon His Mother as the saint of
saints, the holiest of all, the fragrant urn for the manna, or rather, to
speak more truly, the fountain taking its rise in the divine and far-famed
city of David, in Sion the glorious; in it the law is fulfilled and the spiritual
law is portrayed. In Sion, Christ the Law-giver consummated the typical pasch,
and God, the Author of the old and the new dispensation, gave us the true
pasch. In it the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, initiated
His disciples unto His mystical feast, and gave them Himself slain as a victim,
and the grape pressed in the true vine. In Sion, Christ is seen by His apostles,
risen from the dead, and Thomas is told, and through Thomas the world, that
He is Lord and God, having in Himself two natures after His resurrection,
and consequently two operations, independent wills, enduring for all ages.
Sion is the crown of churches, the resting-place of disciples. In it the
echo of the Holy Spirit, the gift of tongues, His fiery descent are transmitted
to the apostles. In it St John, taking the Mother of God, ministered to her
wants. Sion is the mother of churches in the whole world, who offered a
resting-place to the Mother of God after her Son's resurrection from the
dead. In it, lastly, the Blessed Virgin was stretched on a small bed.
When I had reached this point of my discourse, I was obliged to give vent
to my own feelings, and burning with loving desire, to shed reverent yet
joyful tears, embracing, as it were, the bed so happy and blest and wondrous,
which received the life-giving tabernacle and rejoiced in the contact of
holiness. I seemed to take into my arms that holy and sacred body itself,
worthy of God, and pressing my eyes, lips, and forehead, head, and cheeks
to hers, I felt as if she was really there, though I was unable to see with
my eyes what I desired. How, then, was she assumed to the heavenly courts?
In this way. What were the honours then conferred upon her by God who commands
us to honour our parents? The cloud which enclosed Jerusalem as with a net,
by the divine commands, brought together eagles from the ends of the earth,
those who are spread over the world, fishing for men in the various and numerous
tongues of the spirit. By the net of the word they are saving men from the
abyss of doubt and bringing them to the spiritual and heavenly table of the
sacred and mystical banquet, the perfect marriage feast of the Divine Bridegroom,
which the Father celebrates with His Son, who is equal to Himself and of
the same nature. "Where the spirit is," says Christ the Truth, "there shall
the eagles be gathered together." If we have already spoken concerning the
second great and splendid coming of Him who spoke these words, it will not
be out of place here by way of condiment.
Eye-witnesses, then, and ministers of the word were there, duly ministering
to His Mother, and drawing from her a rich inheritance, as it were, and a
full measure of praise. For is it a matter of doubt to any one that she is
the source of blessing and the fountain of all good? Their followers and
successors also were there, joining in their ministry and in their praise.
A common labour produces common fruits. A chosen band from Jerusalem were
there. It was fitting that the foremost men and prophets of the old law,
they who had foretold God the Word's saving birth of her in time, should
be there as a guard of honour. Nor did the angelic choirs fail. They who
obeyed the king heartily and consequently were honoured by standing near
Him, had the right to serve as a body-guard to His Mother, according to the
flesh, the truly blessed and blissful one, surpassing all generations and
all creation. All those were with her who are the brightness and the shining
of the spirit, with spiritual eyes fixed upon her in reverence, and fear,
and pure desire.
We hear divine and inspired words, and spiritual canticles appropriate to
the parting hour. On this account it was meet to praise His boundless goodness,
His immeasurable greatness, His omnipotence, the generosity surpassing all
measure in His dealings with us, the overflowing riches of His mercy, the
abyss of His tenderness; how, putting aside His greatness, He descended to
our littleness with the co-operation of the Father and the Holy Spirit. Again,
the supersubstantial One is supersubstantially created in the virginal womb.
Being God He became man, and remains according to this union perfect God
and perfect man, not giving up the substance of His Godhead nor ceasing to
be of the same flesh and blood as we are. He, who fills all things and governs
the universe with one word, took up His abode in a narrow place, and the
material body of this blessed one received the burning fire of the Godhead,
and as genuine gold it remained intact. This has taken place because God
willed it, since His good pleasure makes things possible which could not
happen without it. Then followed a strife of praise, not as if each was seeking
to outdo the other--for this is vainglorious and far from pleasing to God--but
as if they would leave nothing undone for the glory of God and the honour
of God's Mother.
Then Adam and Eve, our first parents, opened their lips to exclaim, "Thou
blessed daughter of ours, who hast removed the penalty of our disobedience!
Thou, inheriting from us a mortal body, hast won us immortality. Thou, taking
thy being from us, hast given us back the being in grace. Thou hast conquered
pain and loosened the bondage of death. Thou hast restored us to our former
state. We had shut the door of paradise; thou didst find entrance to the
tree of life. Through us sorrow came out of good; through thee good from
sorrow. How canst thou who art all fair taste of death ? Thou art the gate
of life and the ladder to heaven. Death is become the passage to immortality.
O thou truly blessed one! who that is not the Word could have borne what
thou hast borne?"
All the company of the saints exclaimed, "Thou hast fulfilled our predictions.
Thou hast purchased our present joy for us. Through thee we have broken the
chains of death. Come to us, divine and life-giving receptacle. Come, our
desire, thou who hast gained us our desire."
And the saints standing by added their no less burning words: "Remain with
us, our comfort, our sole joy in this world. O Mother leave us not orphans
who have suffered on thy Son's account. May we have thee as a refuge and
refreshment in our labours and weariness. Thou canst remain if thou so willest,
even as thou canst depart hence. if thou departest, O dwelling-place of God
let us go too, if we are thine through thy Son. Thou art our sole consolation
on earth. We live as long as thou livest, and it is bliss to die with thee.
Why do we speak of death? Death is life to thee, and better than life --
incomparably exceeding this life. How is our life -- life, if we are deprived
The apostles and all the assembly of the Church may well have addressed some
such words to the blessed Virgin. When they saw the Mother of God near her
end and longing for it, they were moved by divine grace to sing farewell
hymns, and wrapt out of the flesh, they sighed to accompany the dying Mother
of God, and anticipated death through intensity of will. When they had all
satisfied their duty of loving reverence and had woven her a rich crown of
hymns, they spoke a parting blessing over her, as a God-given treasure, and
the last words. These, I should think, were significant of this life's
fleetingness, and of its leading to the hidden mysteries of future goods.
This, it appears to me, is what they did at once and unanimously. The King
was there to receive with divine embrace the holy, undefiled, and stainless
soul of His Mother on her going home. And she, as we may well conjecture,
said, "Into Thy hands, O my Son, I commend my spirit. Receive my soul, dear
to Thee, which Thou didst keep spotless. I give my body to Thee, not to the
earth. Guard that which Thou wert pleased to inhabit and to preserve in
virginity. Take to Thyself me that wherever Thou art, the fruit of my womb,
there I too may be. I am impelled to Thee who didst descend to me. Do Thou
be the consolation of my most cherished children, whom Thou didst vouchsafe
to call Thy brethren, when my death leaves them in loneliness. Bless them
afresh through my hands." Then stretching out her hands, as we may believe,
she blessed all those present, and then she heard the words "Come, my beloved
Mother, to thy rest. Arise and come, most dear amongst women, the winter
is past and gone, the harvest time is at hand. Thou art fair, my beloved,
and there is no stain in thee. Thy fragrance is sweeter than all ointments."
With these words in her ear, that holy one gave up her spirit into the hands
of her Son.
What happens? Nature, I conjecture, is stirred to its depths, strange sounds
and voices are heard, and the swelling hymns of angels who precede, accompany,
and follow her. Some constitute the guard of honour to that undefiled and
immaculate soul on its way to heaven until the queen reaches the divine throne.
Others surrounding the sacred and divine body proclaim God's Mother in angelic
harmony. What of those who watched by the most holy and immaculate body?
In loving reverence and with tears of joy they gathered round the blessed
and divine tabernacle, embracing every member, and were filled with holiness
and thanksgiving. Then illnesses were cured, and demons were put to flight
and banished to the regions of darkness. The air and atmosphere and heavens
were sanctified by her passage through them, the earth by the burial of her
body. Nor was water deprived of a blessing. She was washed in pure water.
It did not cleanse her, but was rather itself sanctified. Then, hearing was
given to the deaf, the lame recovered their feet, and the blind, their sight.
Sinners who approached with faith blotted out the handwriting against them.
Then the holy body is wrapped in a snow-white winding-sheet, and the queen
is again laid, upon her bed. Then follow lights and incense and hymns, and
angels singing as befits the solemnity; apostles and patriarchs acclaiming
her in inspired song.
When the Ark of God, departing from Mount Sion for the heavenly country,
was borne on the shoulders of the Apostles, it was placed on the way in the
tomb. First it was taken through the city, as a bride dazzling with spiritual
radiance, and then carried to the sacred place of Gethsemane, angels
overshadowing it with their wings, going before, accompanying, and following
it, together with the whole assembly of the Church. King Solomon compelled
all the elders of Israel in Sion to bear the ark of the covenant of the Lord
from the city of David, that is Sion, to rest in the temple of the Lord,
which he had built, and the priests took the ark and the tabernacle of the
testimony, and the priests and levites raised it. And the king and all the
people sacrificed numberless oxen and sheep before the ark. And the priests
carried in the ark of the testimony of God into its place, into the Holy
of Holies, beneath the wings of the cherubim. So is it now with the
dwelling-place of the true ark, no longer of the testimony, but the very
substance of God the Word. The new Solomon, the Prince of peace, the Creator
of all things in the heavens and on the earth, assembled together to-day
the supporters of the new covenant, that is the Apostles, with all the people
of the saints in Jerusalem, brought in her soul through angels to the true
Holy of Holies, under the wings of the four living creatures, and set her
on His throne within the Veil, where Christ Himself had preceded her. Her
body the while is borne by the Apostles' hands, the King of Kings covering
her with the splendour of His invisible Godhead, the whole assembly of the
saints preceding her, with sacred song and sacrifice of praise until through
the tomb it was placed in the delights of Eden, the heavenly tabernacles.
Perchance, Jews also were there, if any, not too reprobate were to be found.
It will not be beside the mark to mention here a thing that is asserted by
many. It is said that when those, who were carrying the blessed body of God's
Mother, had reached the descent of the opposite mountains, a certain Jew,
the slave of sin, and pledged by his folly, imitated the servant of Caiphas,
who struck the divine Face of Christ our Lord and Master, and made himself
the devil's instrument. Full of wicked passion and malice, he rushed at that
most divine tabernacle, which angels approached with fear, and impiously
dragged the bier with both his hands to the ground. This was prompted by
the envy of the arch enemy, but his labours were in vain, and he reaped a
severe and fitting reminder of his deed. It is said that he lost the use
of his hands, which had perpetrated his malicious deed, until faith moved
him to repentance. The bearers were standing near. The wretched man placed
his hands on the wondrous and life-giving tabernacle, and they again became
sound. Circumstances had made him wise, as often happens. But let us return
to our subject.
Then they reached the most sacred Gethsemane, and once more there were embracings
and prayers and panegyrics, hymns and tears, poured forth by sorrowful and
loving hearts. They mingled a flood of weeping and sweating. And thus the
immaculate body was laid in the tomb. Then it was assumed after three days
to the heavenly mansions. The bosom of the earth was no fitting receptacle
for the Lord's dwelling-place, the living source of cleansing water, the
corn of heavenly bread, the sacred vine of divine wine, the evergreen and
fruitful olive-branch of God's mercy. And just as the all holy body of God's
Son, which was taken from her, rose from the dead on the third day, it followed
that she should be snatched from the tomb, that the mother should be united
to her Son; and as He had come down to her, so she should be raised up to
Him, into the more perfect dwelling-place, heaven itself. It was meet that
she, who had sheltered God the Word in her own womb, should inhabit the
tabernacles of her Son. And as our Lord said it behoved Him to be concerned
with His Father's business, so it behoved His mother that she should dwell
in the courts of her Son, in the house of the Lord, and in the courts of
the house of our God. If all those who rejoice dwell in Him, where must the
cause itself of joy abide? It was fitting that the body of her, who preserved
her virginity unsullied in her motherhood, should be kept from corruption
even after death. She who nursed her Creator as an infant at her breast,
had a right to be in the divine tabernacles. The place of the bride whom
the Father had espoused, was in the heavenly courts. It was fitting that
she who saw her Son die on the cross, and received in her heart the sword
of pain which she had not felt in childbirth, should gaze upon Him seated
next to the Father. The Mother of God had a right to the possession of her
Son, and as handmaid and Mother of God to the worship of all creation. The
inheritance of the parents ever passes to the children. Now, as a wise man
said, the sources of sacred waters are above. The Son made all creation serve
Let us then also keep solemn feast today to honour the joyful departure of
God's Mother, not with flutes nor corybants, nor the orgies of Cybele, the
mother of false gods, as they say, whom foolish people talk of as a fruitful
mother of children, and truth as no mother at all. These are demons and false
imaginings. They usurp what they are not by nature to impose upon human folly.
For how can what is bodiless lead the wedded life? How can that be god which,
not being before, is present only after birth? That devils were bodiless
is apparent to all, even to those who are intellectually blind. Homer somewhere
testifies to the condition of the gods he honours:
They eat not barley,
and drink not ruddy wine,
So they are bloodless and are called immortal.
They eat not bread,
he says, neither do they drink fiery wine. On this account they are anaemic,
that is, without blood, and are called immortals. He truly and appropriately
says, "are called." They are called immortals. They are not that which they
are called. They died the death of wickedness. Now we worship God, not God
beginning His being, but who always was and is above all cause and argument
or created mind or nature. We honour and reverence the Mother of God, not
ascribing to her the eternal generation of His Godhead. For the generation
of God the Word was not in time, and was co-eternal with the Father. We
acknowledge a second generation in His spontaneous taking flesh, and we see
and know the cause of this. He who is without beginning and without body
takes flesh for us as one of ourselves. And taking flesh of this sacred Virgin,
He is born without man, remaining Himself perfect God, and becoming perfect
man, perfect God in His flesh, and perfect Man in His Godhead. Thus, recognising
God's Mother in this Virgin, we celebrate her falling asleep, not proclaiming
her as God -- far be from us these heathen fables -- since we are announcing
her death, but recognising her as the Mother of the Incarnate God.
O people of Christ, let us acclaim her today in sacred song, acknowledge
our own good fortune and proclaim it. Let us honour her in nocturnal vigil;
let us delight in her purity of soul and body, for she next to God surpasses
all in purity. It is natural for similar things to glory in each other. Let
us show our love for her by compassion and kindness towards the poor. For
if mercy is the best worship of God, who will refuse to show His Mother devotion
in the same way? She opened to us the unspeakable abyss of God's love for
us. Through her the old enmity against the Creator is destroyed. Through
her our reconciliation with Him is strengthened, peace and grace are given
to us, men are the companions of angels, and we, who were in dishonour, are
made the children of God. From her we have plucked the fruit of life. From
her we have received the seed of immortality. She is the channel of all our
goods. In her God was man and man was God. What more marvellous or more blessed?
I approach the subject in fear and trembling. With Mary, the prophetess,
O youthful souls, let us sound our musical instruments, mortifying our members
on earth, for this is spiritual music. Let our souls rejoice in the Ark of
God, and the walls of Jericho will yield, I mean the fortresses of the enemy.
Let us dance in spirit with David; to-day the Ark of God is at rest. With
Gabriel, the great archangel, let us exclaim, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord
is with thee. Hail, inexhaustible ocean of grace. Hail, sole refuge in grief.
Hail, cure of hearts. Hail, through whom death is expelled and life is
And you I will speak to as if living, most sacred of tombs, after the life-giving
tomb of our Lord which is the source of the resurrection. Where is the pure
gold which apostolic hands confided to you? Where is the inexhaustible treasure
? Where the precious receptacle of God? Where is the living table? Where
the new book in which the incomprehensible Word of God is written without
hands? Where is the abyss of grace and the ocean of healing? Where is the
life-giving fountain? Where is the sweet and loved body of God's Mother?
Why do you seek in the tomb one who has been assumed to the heavenly courts?
Why do you make me responsible for not keeping her? I was powerless to go
against the divine commands. That sacred and holy body, leaving the winding-sheet
behind, filled me full of sweet fragrance, sanctified me by its contact,
and fulfilled the divine scheme, and was then assumed, angels and archangels
and all the heavenly powers escorting it. Now angels surround me, and divine
grace abounds in me. I am the physician of the sick. I am a perpetual source
of health, and the terror of demons. I am a city of refuge for fugitives.
Approach with faith and you will receive a sea of graces. Come, you of weak
faith. All you that thirst, come to the waters in obedience to Isaias' commands,
and you who have no money, come and buy for nothing. I call upon all with
the Gospel invitation. Let him who longs for bodily or spiritual cure,
forgiveness of sins, deliverance from misfortune, the possession of heaven,
approach me with faith, and draw hence a strong and rich stream of grace.
Just as the action of one and the same water acts differently on the earth,
air, and sun, according to the nature of each, producing wine in the vine
and oil in the olive-tree, so does one and the same grace profit each person
according to his needs. I do not possess grace on my own account. A tomb
given up to corruption, an object of sorrow and dejection, I receive a precious
ointment, and am impregnated with it, and this sweet fragrance alters my
condition whilst it lasts. Truly, divine graces flow where they will. I have
sheltered the source of joy, and I have become rich in its perennial
What shall we answer the tomb? You have indeed rich and abiding grace, but
divine power is not restricted by place, neither is the Mother of God's working.
If it were confined to the tomb alone, few would be the richer. Now it is
freely distributed in all parts of the world. Let us then make our memory
serve as a storehouse of God's Mother. How shall this be? She is a virgin
and a lover of virginity. She is pure and a lover of purity. If we purify
our mind with the body, we shall possess her grace. She shuns all impurity
and impure passions. She has a horror of intemperance, and a special hatred
for fornication. She turns from its allurements as from the progeny of
serpents... She looks upon all sin as death-inflicting rejoicing in all good.
Contraries are cured by contraries. She delights in fasting and continence
and spiritual canticles, in purity, virginity, and wisdom. With these she
is ever at peace, and takes them to her heart. She embraces peace and a meek
spirit, and love, mercy, and humility as her children. In a word, she grieves
over every sin, and is glad at all goodness as if it were her own. If we
turn away from our former sins in all earnestness and love goodness with
all our hearts, and make it our constant companion, she will frequently visit
her servants, bringing all blessings with her, Christ her Son, the King and
Lord who reigns in our hearts. To Him be glory, praise, honour, power, and
magnificence, with the eternal Father and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever.
Note: In some places in Scotland, the Feast of the Assumption has become
entwined with the honoring of the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots who was beheaded
by her cousin, the Protestant Elizabeth I. Great festivals are held at which
a "Queen Mary" is chosen, as are 4 ladies in waiting and two knaves.