On this Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, St. John reveals to us the sign of a woman clothed in the sun. This is Mary assumed to heavenly glory. She is called a sign, because she stands over and above history, the link between heaven and earth.
St. John’s Apocalypse is written in an unfamiliar format to us modern readers. It’s in what is called a chiastic structure (from the word “Chi” for the Greek letter “X”). The easiest way to explain it is that in most of the storytelling we’re familiar with, the climax builds to a grand reveal at the end. In a chiasm, the climax is at the center of the X, right in the center of the story. You can find it by finding parallel passages and working in to the center. Long story short, if you haven’t already anticipated it, this passage about the Assumption of Mary is part of the climactic scene in St. John’s Apocalypse. Mary and her Son are in the very center of salvation history. And that makes sense, because the very goal of God’s action in our lives is to bring us safely to heaven, so Mary’s Assumption represents the success of the Gospel.
St. John also records in that passage an unmistakable reference, the great serpent, to the beginning of time and the Fall of Eve in the Garden of Eden. So, here we have one of the very concluding passages of Scripture book-ending and connecting to the very first words of Scripture – The Bible is really neat, you guys, it’s almost as if the Holy Spirit helped write it – There has never been a moment in history without the Gospel, never a moment when God has abandoned us. At the very moment of the Fall, the promise of redemption is already in place.
Our Lord is the new Adam, and Mary is the new Eve. Eve was taken from the side of Adam, composed of his very heart, and leaving a wound there until Christ himself was wounded in the same place at the Cross. From the wound of Adam is created Eve and from the wound of Christ is created Mother Church. Just as Adam and Eve are heartsick until they are united in love, so too is the Church incomplete unless she is united with Christ.
This means that Mary, the New Eve, is wrapped up in all the mysteries of the life of Christ. She ponders his silent growth within her womb and loves him as only a mother can, and she stayed close to him and shared in the sorrow of his death. It is fitting that she also share in his Resurrection, and this is her Assumption.
Notice that all of this occurs through the merits of Christ. It is Jesus who redeems us. Jesus who has the power over life and death. Jesus who, seeing and loving his mother, assumes her to heaven before her body decomposes after death. Mary is important because she goes before us in faith and her maternity links her with the birth of faith in the heart of each person. She is never isolated from the communion of saints and never isolated from her Son. Where he goes, she follows.
There is a startling statement in the Catechism. It says, “The Marian dimension [of the Church] precedes the Petrine.” In other words, not that saints think this way, but Mary has a primacy of place over Peter. It was she who is bodily assumed into heaven while Peter, like the rest of the saints, still awaits the end of time to be reunited with his physical form. There’s something fascinating about that, because it points to the radiant expression of the feminine in the Church. In a world that very much struggles with what it means to be feminine, the Church fully embraces womanhood. All of her teachings on the female body, marriage, and both the receptivity and fruitfulness of love are wrapped up in the divine Motherhood of Mary. If Eve led us astray, it was only Mary who could be the conduit of our redemption and through her bringing Christ physically into the world she is still connected with the dignity of the human body.
It is clear that Mary is intimately bound up with the life of Christ and his mission to save us. From her place in Heaven, she intercedes for us still. When she was assumed to glory, we glimpsed our future – and she is taking us with her. What mother would forget about her children? What mother would not pray for her children?
In her Assumption, Mary takes with her our hurts and betrayals, the wounds caused by human thoughtlessness and past trauma. She takes with her depression and loneliness and despair. She takes with her our fear and timidity, our small failures and our large failures, our difficulty to love the way we ought to love. She takes it all and places it at the feet of Jesus. In this action, divine mercies flow to us and we are healed.
Through her, united to Christ, we too will be brought to new life.
Holy Mary, pray for us