The Solemnity of the Assumption

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The Solemnity of the Assumption

[Scripture Readings: Rev 11:19a, 12:1-6a, 10ab; 1 Cor 15:20-26; Lk 1:39-56]

Fr. BrendanNot being good at learning languages, I have always admired people with that
skill. There are many people here in our own community who speaks several
languages. As I look around, I see monks who speak French, Italian,
Spanish-monks who know Hebrew, Greek and Latin, even Gaelic. To me, these
languages are difficult to master, but compared to some Asian languages they
may appear easy. Some Asian languages are tonal, the same word changes
meaning depending on the tone of voice. But then reflecting on English there
are words that have several meanings. It seems the more important the word
the more meanings it has and the harder it is to define. Take the word God
for example or the word soul, how do you define soul? Another difficult word
to define is love. We must go to music or poetry to describe love. Another
word is church. Church can mean many things.

If you have been reading the newspapers lately or feature article in
national magazines you have no doubt come across headlines like this: “Will
the Church Survive?” “Is the Catholic Church Finished?” “The Church in
Crisis.”
These stories go on to describe the latest scandal and what it is
doing to the trust level of the faithful.

Now we all know the Church will survive. The Church is not finished.
Perhaps certain policies will change but newspapers fail to make a
distinction between the Church as an institution and the Church as the
Mystical Body of Christ. The latter is the Church that is holy, the Church as
the Bride of Christ. St. Bernard says he would never say that about himself,
but as a member of the Church he can claim the title Bride of Christ. This
Church is holy. There is a prayer said on our behalf just before communion at each celebration of the Eucharist wherein we ask God not to look on our sins, but on the faith of your Church. It is a very consoling prayer. We
acknowledge our sinfulness, but leave it aside at this sacred moment and
appeal to the holiness of the Church. The presence of Jesus is in the heart
of every baptized Christian, but even more, the communion of saints. The
Church is called a sacrament of salvation. Mary as Mother of the Church is
not so much a sacrament but the reality that the sacrament points to. She has
achieved what the sacraments are meant to achieve in us.

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin MaryToday we celebrate the culmination of Mary’s existence, her assumption
into Heaven. She is the first and only one to be united with her glorified
body.
In these days when we all struggle with what is called the humanness of
the Church and with our own humanness, it is good to celebrate this feast of
Mary whose humanness is fully redeemed. We need this encouragement. St.
Bernard calls Mary a star. If we get discouraged on our journey he tells us
to look to the star and call upon Mary. By looking at her glorified body in
Heaven, we are reminded that our own redemption is at hand. Redemption means
our sins are not final. All these ugly things we read about, all the evil of
the culture of death is not final if there is repentance and forgiveness.
Today’s feast is about redemption, about the final outcome of human
life, about hope and the reversal of sin and death. As Paul tells us this
morning “the last of the enemies to be done away with is death.”(1 Cor 15:26)
Christ made death our last sacrament as it were. It has a visible and an
invisible moment. Visibly our physical life comes to an end, but in the act
of dying we give our whole existence back to God and this can be the most
personal action of our whole time on earth, a total surrender that begins our
new life in Christ. Mary has made that surrender and is the first of the
redeemed.

So much of our daily Eucharist calls us to our final glory. Just after
we pray to the Lord and appeal to the faith of the Church; the priest breaks
the host and places a small piece in the chalice. As he does, so he prays
that “this mingling of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ will bring
eternal life to us who receive it.
” Aquinas says this particle dropped in the
chalice points to the risen Body, namely Christ and the most Blessed Virgin. (Summa III q.83, a.5) When we speak of the Risen body of Christ, Mary is included and
someday we hope to be included. In today’s second reading, Paul is very clear
how this will happen. All will be brought to life, Christ the first fruits,
and next at his coming, those who belong to Him. After that will come the
end, when he will hand over the kingdom to God the Father. Mary’s Assumption
points to and anticipates

The Solemnity of the Assumption

[Scripture Readings: Rev 11:19a, 12:1-6a, 10ab; 1 Cor 15:20-26; Lk 1:39-56]

Fr. BrendanMy brother-in-law has a trait many people have, especially Irish people. I
call it greatness by association. Like the man in St. Louis who brags about
living across the street from the man who ran the elevator for the Pope during his
visit to St. Louis. I can hear him telling his friends, “Remember that shot
showing the Pope coming out of the elevator? I know the guy who runs the
elevator!”

Well, my brother-in-law had a great uncle who was president of Loras College
many years ago — Fr. Gorman. When he would visit here with my sister and his
family, he would bring the kids to the Loras campus to the hall in the
administration building where the pictures of the Presidents hung. He would stand before
Fr. Gorman’s picture and say, “Here is your great great uncle!” Of course,
the kids couldn’t have cared less. But he was trying to hand on some sense of
family pride—a little bit of fame by association.

On one visit, he took the kids to Loras as usual and much to his dismay all
the pictures had been replaced by abstract drawing by the art students—circles,
squares and triangles! The kids were older then and had a good laugh at his
expense. Times change and progress is made, but he for one did not see this as
progress. Acceptable art for one generation may not appeal to another
generation.

The Assumption of Mary into Heaven by Bartolomé Esteban MurilloWhen the dogma of the Assumption was declared in 1950 “the” artistic
representation was a painting by Murrilo. It comes from the age of triumph and doesn’t
exactly reveal much of the mystery to us. Like it or not, we bring our modern
eyes, our modern understanding to this feast day.

There are certain descriptions of the Assumption that leave us cold. Even to
describing Mary as more than human—beyond our reach. Received into the glory
of the heavenly court and the detailed description of this court doesn’t do
much for people who couldn’t care less about royal courts of a bygone age.

So how can this feast speak to us? How can it enlighten us and encourage us
on our journey? How can it become part of our story—our family heritage and
pride?

In the past 30 or 40 years, the West has discovered icons. You see them
everywhere. For example, the present issue of Worship magazine has a copy of the
Dormition—the name given our feast in the East. The icon tries to convey Mary’s
simultaneous falling asleep with her passing into the life of God. A prayer
from the Greek liturgy, quoted in our new Catechism of the Catholic Church,
speaks of the mystery this way. “ . . . in your Dormition you did not leave the
world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life.
1 “Joined
to the source of life.” This is something we all hope for. It is our
destiny—our calling—our heritage. It is what humans were created for.

Mary is the first to complete our journey—the first to pass into the Father
on the merits of her Son and our Savior. She is out family pride—our greatness
by association.

Falling asleep into God is a beautiful image that speaks to us. Where do we
go each night when we fall asleep? There is a scripture passage that says, “I
sleep but my heart watches.” Our spirit never sleeps. Our body seems to die in
sleep and one day it really will, but our spirit at that moment will pass into
God. Everything of faith will become vision. We will know as we are known.
Mary’s life on earth is a model of our life of faith and love. Her life in
Heaven is our hope of life after death in God.

Thanks to Olga’s Gallery Online Art Museum.


Homily for the

Solemnity of the Assumption
and
The Golden Jubilee of
Sister Columba Guare

Preached by Fr. Brendan Freeman, Abbot

[Scripture Readings: Song of Songs 2:1-3, 8-14; 1 Cor 15:20-27; Lk 1:39-56]

Fr. Brendan“Blessed are you among women,” (LK. 1:42).

This, of course, refers to the Blessed Virgin Mary, not Sr. Columba. But maybe for today Mary would share it with Colum! I remember as a boy my mother listening to a radio program called, “Queen for a Day.” Colum is queen today and blessed among women and men!

As I was reflecting on today’s Gospel I realized how much Mary learned about herself from others. The Angel Gabriel told her she was chosen by God and a whole list of other things. Elizabeth said she was blessed among women. What a charmed life. But if you follow Mary through the New Testament it does not appear to be very charmed. She is spared none of the hardships of life. What St. Benedict calls the “dura et aspera,” the hard and difficult things that are part of everyone’s life. Mary is certainly elevated. She is the Mother of God, after all. But in our day and age elevation is not so appealing. What appeals to us is her humanness—her motherhood, her discipleship.

Mary has to come to self knowledge just like the rest of us and today’s Gospel gives us an insight. Others are telling Mary who she is. Now I know modern psychology says it is not healthy to get your identity from others but we all do. How else would we know who we are?

Sister Columba Today we are celebrating Sr. Columba’s Golden Anniversary of profession. Look at all the people here who are a part of this celebration because they are part of her life. In a real sense they gave her identity. So we are not celebrating just one person’s achievement but the achievement of a whole family of people centered on Sr. Columba. People who made this day possible. A wonderful diversity of people.

Just look around. There are her family and relatives who came a great distance to be here. We want to remember especially her parents who gave her life and passed on the faith to her. Her brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews—all her blood relatives. Think of it, the same blood flowing through many lives—the same love holding them together as a family.

Then there is Mother Agnes, the Abbess of Wrentham, the Abbey where Colum learned how to be a Cistercian nun. They gave her a very definite identity. They taught her how to act and think as a monastic. Then she brought that to Iowa and for eioghteen years led this community and laid the foundations of a solid Cistercian Abbey that is able to pass on our heritage.

I should mention here Dom Bernard Johnson as representing our Order since he was our Procurator General in Rome for many years. It is fortuitous that he is serving as chaplain just now.

There are many of Colum’s personal friends here today. All of us are influenced by our friends—probably more than we know. But this is not a one way street. Colum has touched many lives for the good. She has helped many people through hard times. I think of B.J. Weber. He might still be trying to play rugby in Dubuque instead of ministering the Gospel in New York if it weren’t for Sr. Columba.

Then there are the monks of New Melleray—out in force today to give our support and share in the festivities. We have always had a great relationship with our sisters—not just a good relationship, but a great relationship. Sr. Columba started it and Mother Gail has built on it. Community of Our Lady of the Mississippi AbbeyI remember when the sisters came in 1964. What a thrill it was to work over here. It was a thrill and fun and it got us out of being around men all the time. I like to think we had something to do with making this day happen.

Finally, there is Colum’s own community. Her sisters in the Spirit, some of whom have lived with her for almost fifty years. About this special relationship I would like to borrow words from Dorothy Day, the founder of The Catholic Worker. She says, “Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a crust, where there is companionship.” We have all known the long loneliness; we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community. This community loves Colum and she loves them. What more needs to be said.

The Assumption of Mary into HeavenOne last word. Colum began her religious life on the feast day that commemorates the end of Mary’s journey on earth. The Assumption of Mary. The Greek Fathers call this feast the Dormition of Mary. The sleep like death of Mary which is a passing into new life. Their prayer says, “in your dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life.”

No one can achieve a golden anniversary without at some time or other experiencing the long loneliness. And no one can touch us at that depth except the one who calls us into being each day of our life. The one who says, “Arise my love, my lovely one and come. See the winter is past, the rains are over and gone.” Sg. of Sg. 2:11.

We hear these words in our deep hearts’ core now in faith, one day in vision. One day everything confused will be clear and we will know as we are known and love as we are loved. We will all be joined to the source of life.

Thanks to photographs from the Sisters and to Hermanoleon Clipart.

New Melleray Abbey
6632 Melleray Circle
Peosta, Iowa 52068

Phone: 563.588.2319
Email: guesthouse@newmelleray.org