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Our Journey in Hope

Tuesday, August 09, 2016
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. fr Richard Conrad helps us to see how Our Holy Mother goes before the faithful on their journey of hope.

Scripture and Tradition agree that if the first human beings had not sinned, we would not be subject to death. This does not mean we would have lived an earthly life for unlimited time. God made us as beings who plan and grow towards goals, and he always meant that we should grow, by love, into a share in his eternal bliss. We were to grow from an intimate faith into clear vision, from an earthly life of integrity into a life of bodily glory. We are not told how this journey would have gone had there been no sin. We are told that, because of sin, we must die and rise in Jesus, the Father’s Word, who took our human nature and in it ministered, suffered, and rose to glory, to be our Way. St Paul calls Jesus the “first fruits” of the resurrection life, since the presentation of the first sheaf in the Temple enabled the barley harvest to happen. Jesus’ Resurrection will enable ours, when he destroys death and makes a new cosmos that will be a fitting shrine for his and our risen bodies.
Our journey in hope is energised by pledges of future glory, especially Jesus’ own Resurrection – for his tomb was left empty, no one could produce his dead body, and his disciples proclaimed their conviction that he had shown them his risen Body.
Today’s Feast celebrates a further pledge of our resurrection. Despite their concern to cherish the bodies of the Apostles and Martyrs, none of the early Christian communities claimed to have the body of Mary, Jesus’ Mother – they knew it too is not in this cosmos, but in glory. Jesus has already shared with her the glory we hope he will share with us. Since the Holy Spirit had made her body a fitting shrine for Christ’s Body, it was only fitting that her body be preserved from decay.
Much Christian art shows Our Lady “falling asleep” among the Apostles – for she is always at the heart of the Church – with Jesus taking her soul to heaven; then he returns to take her body to glory, and the Apostles find her tomb empty. This way of envisaging Mary’s journey to glory emphasises her conformity to her Son. As they reflected on how Mary had been filled with the Holy Spirit in the very moment of her conception, because of her Son’s future Sacrifice, many theologians began to doubt whether she “fell asleep” at all, and thought of her making the kind of smooth transition to bodily glory that all would have made if sin had not happened. In 1950 Pope Pius XII did not specify whether or not Mary “fell asleep”, but defined the dogma thus: “the Immaculate Mother of God…, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” 
Mary made her journey as Model Disciple and Type of the Church. Reflection on her role must employ a network of imagery, as does the carol “This endris night” which pictures Mary singing to Jesus, “My son, my brother, my father dear.” The kaleidoscope of images in the Apocalypse includes the Woman clothed with the sun. She seems to stand for the People of Israel, the Christian Church, and Mary – Mary who welcomed the Messiah on behalf of the faithful People of Israel, and who represents the Christian Church. The Woman gives birth in anguish. This is not the Birth at Bethlehem – early Christians recognised that that Birth was without pain, implying they sensed that Mary was without Original Sin. The anguished Birth took place on Calvary, where the Creator, the New Adam, suffered the birth-pangs of the new creation to bring forth the resurrection world. Mary, as the New Eve, stood by him in com-passion, on behalf of the whole cosmos which groans in travail in solidarity with its Maker (for this image see Romans 8:22-23). 
Jesus’ victory over sin and death flowed in a unique way, with outstanding intensity, to his Mother, but it did so as a pledge that it can flow to us. The Spirit who went ahead of Mary to keep her from sin, goes ahead of us to free us from sin. Jesus who preserved her from decay, will call us back to life. And her prayers support us on our journey, as we seek to be conformed more fully to her Son.

Readings: Apocalypse 11:19,12:1-6,10|1 Corinthians 15:20-27| Luke 1:39-56

The image above is from a 5th-century mosaic in St Mary Major in Rome.

Richard Conrad O.P.

fr. Richard Conrad teaches dogmatic and sacramental theology at Blackfriars, Oxford, where he is also the director of the Aquinas Institute.


Anonymous commented on 13-Aug-2016 03:50 PM
A beautiful insite into the readings for 15th August, however I did not receive the reflection for Sunday 14th August which gospel is a very meaningful one.
I'm wondering if it has gone astray or was not sent!
God bless for the very beautiful insites that are sent every week - Thank you all

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