In this month of August we celebrate the Assumption of Mary, our Mother and Mother of the Church.
Many of us, since we were children, have prayed the Hail Mary almost effortlessly: it is so much a part of our Catholic way of life. As adult disciples we need to continue to grow in our relationship with the Mother of Jesus.
For Our Lady is the woman of the Holy Spirit—the one who modelled for us how to cooperate with the overshadowing presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
The English Catholic laywoman, writer and mystic Caryll Houselander’s classic, The reed of God can help us as we reflect on Mary this August.
We are all vessels for God, channels of God’s presence and compassion to others. Mary was a ‘reed’ on which God played music. The reed must be hollowed out and stops cut in it. In the process of molding a life, the initiative and design work is God’s. Our project in the spiritual life is to trust God’s plan and, as Mary did, to receive a generous gift.
Mary, like most of us, was not asked to renounce the world or enter a convent. To outward appearances, her life did not change much after the Annunciation: she continued to be a peasant woman of Galilee and she carried out her plan to marry Joseph. As often happens when God intervenes in human history, it is through ordinary people.
As we journey through life, we see that Mary is blessed not just at the start of her vocation as a disciple, but right throughout her human journey on earth.
Mary, in the tradition of the Church, ages and matures until, as we Catholics believe, she was assumed into heaven. The Eastern Orthodox understand the mystery as Mary falling asleep in the Lord (the feast of the Dormition of Mary). Both Churches agree that she was taken up into heaven bodily.
Whatever the differing traditions say, they concur that Mary was an older person undergoing a profound change.
At the end of her earthly life, Mary is not the beautiful young woman of the Annunciation in Galilee, nor the grief-stricken mother of the Pieta, but a determined older woman with a mission to proclaim the Gospel in the city. She is a Jewish mother who has come, through a demanding life, to know that her son Jesus is her Lord and thus she has a Gospel to share.
We rejoice that Mary is blessed as an older person and that this ‘harvest’—the glorious process of the cycle of death and resurrection that Mary prefigures—awaits us, too.
Hail Mary, Mother of God, Mother of the Church and our Mother!
† Denis J Hart
Archbishop of Melbourne