Ampleforth Abbey

14 December 2017

Assumption

Homily preached by Abbot Cuthbert Madden OSB at Conventual Mass on the Solemnity of the Assumption, 15th August 2013.

It is no mistake, surely, that the second reading for this feast which we have just heard, the passage from the first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians, is also one the passages set for the Funeral Mass.  You will recall its central passage, ‘Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order; Christ as the first fruits and then, after the coming of Christ, those who belong to him’ (1 Cor 15.22-23).  When this reading is applied to this feast its meaning is very clear. 

Mary was conceived in the ordinary way as an ordinary human being – but at her conception the first of Christ’s miracles occurred when she was conceived without original sin.  Like every other girl, she grew to maturity and then, by accepting God’s invitation to be the Mother of his Son, she was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and bore Christ our Lord (Luke 1.26-38 & Luke 2.1-21).  Still human as we are, she nursed Him and nurtured Him until he reached maturity (Luke 2.22-40).  She shared in the suffering and rejoicing which is the lot of every human parent.  At the end of her Son’s earthly life she stood at the foot of the cross as He died for her salvation and for ours (John 19.25-30).  Like the Apostles she was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and witnessed to the resurrection of her beloved Son (Acts 2.1 & Acts 1.13-14).  And just as we will die, so she died – but, unlike us, she was then raised body and soul to eternal life; her resurrection to new life was in the proper order: she was raised by her Son as a sign of the resurrection from the dead which is the destiny for everyone who belongs to Christ, that is to say every faithful member of the Church. 

If we desire this as our destiny, we need to ask what constitutes being someone ‘who belongs to Christ’ – and here again Mary gives us an answer.  From the moment of her ‘Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum’ (Luke 1.38) ‘let it happen to me as you have said’ as one modern translation has it, her life was lived in absolute obedience to the God’s commands regardless of the cost to her – and it is for this reason that the Church still sings her praises day by day in the words of the canticle we heard in the Gospel today (Luke 1.46-55), the canticle she first sang in the presence of her cousin Elizabeth.  You and I are invited to the same obedience: to listen to and respond to God as she listened and responded.  You and I are invited to bring Christ to birth in our world today – in our thoughts and our words and our deeds.  And if we allow the Holy Spirit to overshadow us, as He overshadowed Mary, then Christ will come to birth, the world will see the glory of God and mankind will be brought to eternal life in the presence of the Father – to that eternal life which Mary already lives in Heaven. 

Because Mary now stands in the presence of the blessed Trinity, a human being like us though now glorified by her Son, she can intercede for us day by day – and surely our prayer must be that we may have the God-given strength to live as she lived, faithfully following in the footsteps of her Son in order that we, too, might share that same relationship of unending love and beatitude which she presently enjoys in heaven.