ASSUMPTION OF THE BVM 2021 (HR)
Song of Songs 2:1-7; Gal. 4: 4-7; Luke 1: 46-55.
‘Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my Spirit rejoices in God my Saviour; for he has looked with favour on his lowly servant.”’
May it be given to me to speak in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. AMEN.
Today we thank God for Mary: the girl, the woman, the mother, the disciple, in the keeping of a feast that places her identity, her obedience, her discipleship, her generosity of spirit, and the grace of her abiding faith in total relation with her Son in the presence of the Father. The assumption – forasmuch as we may get hung up on its place in theology – does essentially what it says on the tin, to put it crudely. Mary’s vocation, her giftedness and givenness are today perpetually integrated within the Godhead for which she offers herself in the completeness of the “yes” who is made flesh within her.
As we emerge from the pandemic, Mary signifies the hope we each so desperately need to encounter and to befriend in a society in which the values she embodies and from which she lives appear to be at a premium. Or at least that’s what the rhetoric would have us believe. I suggest, however, that COVID teaches us different – that we have seen in the past year and a half in fact a reworking of the assumption of the mighty and meek, as their narratives are also integrated into Mary’s canticle, in a proclamation and witness that attest powerfully to upturned expectations and the transfiguring of life itself.
The pandemic after all has realised for us in real terms, what Mary knew 2000 years before: the disconcerting, yet sure truth that God magnifies the lowly, exalts the humble and breathes the life of his divinity into the humanity of those forgotten by kings and governors. Our lady is just what she was born to be: vocation and response and entire offering for such as these to whom the Kingdom of her Christ and ours rightly belongs.
Mary’s very essence as woman, as mother and as universal human type is today a refreshing focus for the whole of Christendom at a time when it is sorely needed; when the future of the Church Catholic would be manipulated and placed in jeopardy at the behest of policy wonks and empire builders, whose only thought seems to be, as the psalmist recognises, that ‘God does not matter’ except according to the narrow limits of the latest document devised by last year’s sub-subcommittee. And when was the last time they emptied a bin, boiled a kettle, cleaned a toilet or held a flailing hand? But perhaps they learned to give the peace in Sign during lockdown. Perhaps.
The hope of Mary, the joy of Mary, the love Mary both conceives and is assumed into by today’s feast, remind us that she has done all this ever and again in the free offering of her very life – her very ordinary, unremarkable – indeed unassuming life for her baby boy, her gift in utero – the same Christ who is her earthly annunciation of “yes” and “amen” for the life of the world – that the least of us may have life abundantly; life whom we will hold in our hands and taste with our lips a few moments from now. – All thanks to the incorruptible givenness of the “yes” she let be “yes”. And not so that we escape death, but that we may perceive eternally the power of resurrection and the hope it carries and forever offers to greatest as to least. Mary’s soul and body enshrine for us that hope and all its potential joy and sorrow met in the life of the triune God.
Today, we are assured once again that life is gifted to us in this clement, sweet, loving everywoman. It is in Mary’s way that the kingdoms of the world can become kingdoms rent topsy-turvy by Magnificat, mothered into risen life by the Theotokos who bears Godself for their sake to magnify and enrich them. “My soul magnifies/my Spirit rejoices”; continuous present. He magnifies me and lifts up my brothers and sisters that in their like simplicity and total personhood, they may inherit the earth by entering its heaven, receiving to themselves the perfect life of its God and King here and now.
Here is truth in God’s own canticle; here is the veracity we can also choose to enshrine today; the righteousness in which we too are at home.
So do we re-enter the restrictive rhetoric of pre-Covid times, as it begins once again to limit human potential and flourishing and entomb personhood in the narrowness of politicking? Because this is neither the Marian way nor that of the Church her Son Is seeking for his bride.
Today, we are assumed into the infinite potential of entire, whole and perfect response to the call of the God who is the vocation of us all: Mary shows the Church our vocation. Dare we say with her, “Here am I the handmaid of the Lord; let it be with me according to thy word.” If we do believe with her what is told us by the Lord, we begin to delimit and dissolve wrangling and strictness and the zeal God will not own, and magnify and rejoice instead in the infinite wideness of the mercy come down from the heights and lived out in the lowest and lowliest places.
Those, like Mary who live there, live in God and God lives in them. For this place is none other than the heavenly court – the habitation of love. And his presence – his soul – is revealed in it and within all who strive to enter it. We’re invited with her today to rise and adore and welcome others with mothering arms and gaze as children, Paul reminds us, upon the mystery of love.
Dare we not say with Marian faith and fear, “Be it unto me according to thy word,” that we too may rise in her wake to adore that mystery, leading others to gaze upon the face of God? He that is mighty has magnified us too, and in looking to the heart and soul of Mary, we see the fullness of God borne in the Christ who conforms all things to Godself, that the kingdoms of this world may be transformed and minds and hearts made new.
Mary, mother of us all, pray for us to your Son, that like you, we may be made worthy of such transformation and of the reception of so sweet a guest for our good and that of all the children of God. AMEN