The Church has no lack of occasions throughout the year to celebrate and call to mind the great deeds, occasions and people in her history. Our celebrations are not simply limited to Christmas and Easter. These important occasions are marked with a designation by the Church that indicates their level of importance. Solemnities are the highest, feasts are the next level and memorials are the last. Often these occasions of “high celebration” for the church are days of obligation, an extra time during the week where the faithful are required to attend Mass. These obligations are not merely matters of “law” meant to inconvenience people but rather requirements meant to encourage the faithful to celebrate and recall the greatness of the Church and her long history which we are all part of. One of these occasions which occur as summer wanes is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on August 15.
Some people who do not understand the universal view of the Church have difficulty with the Church’s homage to Mary and her life. I once had a “strong disagreement” with a protestant about how Mary is “just a human” and merely a “vessel” chosen by God no more no less. After being waylaid by my emotion of pure frustration at this, I must admit that this expression made me really sad. I have since discovered that this is a pretty consistent teaching in many protestant circles. What a waste of a resource that God has handed us. Mary in all her triumphs and tribulations was “one of us”. Her life with the living God and all that it entailed is a rich source of what it’s like to be a human just trying to live out God’s plan for one’s life. She is not set apart with “super powers” or “supernatural abilities or intuitions”. She is a regular girl who had her life turned on its head at the tender age of around thirteen. This truth that Mary was fully human is the lynch pin that solidifies the reason that Mary is such a pivotal devotion for and the Church and for all Catholics. People who do not understand the role of the Church in world history bring up the point that Jesus is an impossible “example” to follow because he was, after all, God; that inkling of doubt that the enemy uses in his attempts to invalidate faith and all it encompasses; The false concept that no human could ever meet up to God’s perfect standard, so why try?
Mary’s humanity is nothing but an extraordinary source of hope, encouragement and validation for all of us. To be human is very, very good, Mary and her life proves that. God is, of course, God. He could have chosen any venue in any way shape or form for the entrance of his Son into the human race. He could have created a big show with special effects; the arrival of his son spontaneously borne on golden clouds with hosts of seraphim spewing flame, or anything else that you might think of which would have gotten the attention of the human race. Instead, he entrusted a humble peasant teen-ager with the job, in a stable in the middle of an animal’s feed bin. This is one more assurance and tribute to “humanness” that God shows us over and over again in scripture. To be human is not “inferior” or “lower” to Godliness. This is the clear message that God brings to the human race.
In Mary is the hope of all generations which ever were or ever will be, one of our own, one of us who God trusted ultimately. She lived the example of what humanness could really be without the aid of “special effects” such as being God’s Son. Mary did it all. She ran the gamut from being an ostracized pregnant, out of wedlock teen, to entering heaven without as lick of hesitation at the moment of her death. She experienced sorrow that made no sense, having to run out on her home, country and family only to enter a strange land knowing not one soul there and based on a “hunch” that her husband had. She held the broken body of her only child in her hands and had to experience the pungency of blood, spittle and sweat where she once experienced the sweet smell of a new born on her breast. She watched all of his friends dessert him and remained steady as they regrouped. She was the unifying force who enabled them to move on rather than quit. In the end she was joyfully welcomed directly into heaven in jubilation. She, as human, passed through the broadly open door of heaven and left it gaping and waiting for us. Mary entered through that open door and waits on the other side for each of us. All humanness is full of promise by God’s design and Mary is the pioneer who blazed the trail showing us our own possibilities and realities in eternity.
Copoyright©2010, Kathryn M. Cunningham, All Rights Reserved
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