Darkness, pain and dignity!
With the recent Feast of the Assumption, we were reminded of the great dignity of our human condition. That special belief of our Catholic story, that Mary was assumed into heaven, body and soul, was long held by people of faith before being officially proclaimed as a dogma of our faith by Pope Pius XII in 1950.
It is greatly significant that this was proclaimed not too long after the end of World War II. In today’s world of course, we have technology that allows instant communication. Obviously this was not so at the end of the war and it took some time for the stories of horror to filter around the world. It must have been a frightening reality for people to come to realise how representatives of the world’s leadership had committed the world’s population to such unspeakable and large scale trauma, pain and loss. With the gradual release and sharing of photographs and stories, human lives and their physical bodies looked more and more like they’d been treated as expendable trash. So many dead military and civilian lives from all ‘sides’ of the horrific conflicts were not even identified, leaving remaining loved ones unable even to honour lost life with burial.
Mary and The Assumption – a feast of humanity
On top of this darkness, the Pope proclaimed a powerful story of light; the Assumption of a human – one of us - Mary. It was and is a belief that honours the whole of human life, including the physical body, as sacred and enduring. As Mary was physically assumed into heaven, and in our spiritual tradition made queen of heaven, we were given a special link to the big picture of life. Her prayers of intercession for us are real, adding to the true connection with us and knowledge of us in heaven, by name, even now. We are already part of the ‘communion of saints’.
Such a story and such a feast potentially gives great comfort and strength to our human existence, even and especially in the face of horrors such as war. Such a story and feast proclaims God’s victory for us over all that threatens. Yes there are newer challenges and fears that exist in our world this century, but the statistics of war horror are not a patch on the realities of last century. Likewise the rate at which the wider creation was being destroyed last century is being addressed hugely more significantly now. There is a long way to go as we are currently hearing from Pacific leaders whose people are losing homes through climate change. But we can be thankful that last century’s gross misuse of the world’s resources has entered our global consciousness. The Assumption, as a feast of human dignity, calls us to be active players in continuing to build the hope and joy of God’s view of life on earth and of all creation.
The image here is a statue of Mary at St Ignatius Church, Yotsuya (Tokyo, Japan). Mary remains an inspiration across many cultures and is experienced as a beautiful companion in our prayer; a particular and special human link for us into the heart of Jesus.
Hence our Catholic ‘holy days of obligation’
So significant is the Assumption to who we are as human, and the hope and identity into which we are called, that it is one of our designated ‘holy days’ – along with each Sunday and Christmas Day. These are the core days of the year on which Catholic Christians make a priority to gather at the Lord’s table and be graced together. We are a people called to be hope and life for the world – together, not alone - as the Body of Christ. Our faith - together – is fundamental to what it means to be followers of Christ. Our pattern of life is to come together in faith and witness to God as the source of life. Hence as Catholics we say that our gathering is not negotiable. We commit to it as an obligation to each other and to God, in love. And in that pattern of life, we receive our dignity anew – the grace of the Sacraments - in order to go out as the Body to shine Christ in the world.
With friendship in God’s mission,
Originally featured in paulfromifm.org.au in August 2019