Today, throughout Italy people are celebrating. They’re lighting fireworks, holding feasts and gathering for parades. At the climax of their parades, a statue of the Blessed Mother, crowned with flowers, will be carried through the streets of each village. She’ll travel under wreaths and arches of flowers before cheering crowds. Finally, in parish churches and great cathedrals, with a statue of Christ, she will be venerated. The custom carries over to the United States in the Italian sections of many cities. As a child I can remember participating in these celebrations in Cleveland with my relatives. Today, is the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Today, the Church remembers that Mary, the Mother of God, was assumed body and soul into heaven—to spend eternity in the life of the Holy Trinity.
Mary’s Assumption points to our own salvation—to the resurrection of our bodies and to our hope of eternity in the inner-life of God. In Mary’s Assumption we celebrate the salvation the Lord has given us.
The Assumption is a solemnity of hope.
For many Catholics the holiness of Mary seems foreign— we think of Mary as perfect and we doubt that we can imitate her.
But Mary was without sin because she was a tabernacle of the Lord—she carried within herself the body, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. At the same time she was a finite human being, with all the limitations of humanity.
We can imitate Mary—and become holy—by becoming tabernacles of the Lord.
This Sunday the Church read a promise from our Lord contained in the Gospel of John: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven,” proclaimed Jesus, “whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
The Eucharist is the great gift God gives us of his presence. It is the path of our communion with God. The Eucharist contains the body, soul and divinity of Christ. And so it is the sacrament of hope.
When we consume the living bread we become tabernacles of God. He dwells within us. In that way the Eucharist allows us to imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary. And her holiness, which once seemed so foreign, becomes accessible to us.
Mary’s Assumption gives us hope that bearing God through the reception of the Eucharist will draw us into eternity with God.
When Mary bore Jesus in her womb, her nature as a woman was elevated to a sacred purpose. The same is true of the eucharistic bread and wine: when it is transformed into the presence of Christ, its nature too is elevated to the sacred. And when we receive the Eucharist, we are elevated ourselves into agents of the presence of God. Bearing God in our bodies, through the Eucharist, makes us bearers of the presence of Christ in our families and in our communities— the Eucharist transforms us into the mystical body of Christ and thus makes us sharers in the life of the Trinity. For this reason the Eucharist unites us to God and also to one another. Receiving the Eucharist regularly strengthens our bonds of communion. The Eucharist strengthens our marriages—and elevates them to the supernatural. The Eucharist strengthens our families. It makes us one—connected by our deep connection to Christ.
Mary bore God and was assumed into heaven to share in God’s life. Her Assumption demonstrates the truth of God’s promise to us.
We too can carry the presence of God within us. Like Mary, we too can share in the life of God forever. In Italy and everywhere else, that is a promise worth celebrating.