Happy Feast Day, all! The great and glorious feast of Our Lady's Assumption body and soul into heaven is upon us. Madonna House is filled with hanging baskets of flowers from our gardens, the sun is shining and the whole world bears witness to the beauty of God reflected in the beauty of this woman who alone has walked the whole path of love and glory in this world and beyond it.
I thought I would share an excerpt from my book The Air We Breathe on Mary in the writings of Catherine Doherty. So here it is, below the fold, Mary, joy, the Assumption and its relevance to our lives:
Mary means joy. The quality of Marian joy is shot through all of Catherine’s writings. Mary is the one who communicates to us that the path of Christ, the way of the Cross, the path of surrender, obedience, dispossession, detachment, death to self–all of those words that seem so daunting and unattractive to us–in truth leads to eternal joy and glory. And this eternal joy which will only be ours in heaven already begins to stir within us in our earthly lives. Our following of Christ, whatever suffering or burden it may entail upon us, always has a note of joy in it, faint and frail as it may be at times, and this note grows stronger in our lives as his grace in us increases. Mary’s presence helps us in this. She herself brings us joy and she holds before us always the overwhelmingly joyful quality of the Christian religion.
Catherine connects Mary and joy most especially in the feast of the Assumption. Mary’s own complete entry, body and soul, into the perfect joy of heaven makes her an icon of joy and victory for all Christians. Mary the human creature is unique among creatures in perfectly walking the path of God in the world, and so she alone shows us that this path is, for us, the true path of life and beauty. Catherine reflects on this often. For example:
At the moment of my death I shall see and faith will become a reality! That is why it will disappear! For there will be no need to speculate in any way. The folded wings will unfold and I shall shout, "Allelu! Allelu! Allelu! I know what death is… On death I shall burst open, as it were, as a ripe fruit… and the reality of the Triune God, especially Christ, will be mine. And I will know that death is life, because Christ conquered it. And somewhere on the side, the Mother of man who is also the Mother of God, and who long ago woke up from her sleep, will put out her hand and say, "You see where dispossession brought you? It brought you to the possession of the Trinity, of Love."[i]
Catherine loved to meditate on the event of Mary’s assumption, which no human eyes witnessed. She calls August a “month of mystery… of light and joy, yet hidden, at an immense depth, and un-revealed to the mortal eyes of man… in which Heaven saw its gentle immaculate Queen crowned.”[ii] She wonders if Mary was taken up on a night “full of strange light... studded with the stars of the universe, reflecting the translucent light of a full moon? Or was it dawn in all its glory that saw Her assumed into Heaven? No one saw… No one was there but Faith…which sees without seeing.”[iii]
Her poetic imagination is at work here for a purpose. Catherine did not simply paint word pictures for their own sake, or as an exercise in idle speculation. In meditating on the physical fact of Mary’s bodily Assumption to heaven, the event by which “Earth’s most beautiful, immaculate, perfect daughter knew not the darkness of the grave, nor the touch of dissolution or decay,”[iv] Catherine is drawing her readers’ minds and hearts to an urgent truth. Mary’s assumption reveals to us the true trajectory of human life, the purpose for which God created the human race. Why are we here? Where is our life is going, if we choose to cooperate with our Maker? Mary assumed to heaven is the answer to this.
In the modern world, where secularism has driven the hope of heaven from the hearts of so many, and even from the conscious concern of many believers, this meditation on Mary is a welcome corrective:
Do we meditate enough on this glorious, joyous mystery? How we need to do just that, we whose generation and times hold so many orphaned souls… who are children of twilights and wars, who live in the shadowy land of a thousand fears… who stand in such desperate need of wisdom to guide us on a straight course…”[v]
Mary assumed into heaven sets us precisely on this straight course by showing us that our destiny is love and joy. And, as Mary’s Assumption is a feast “of love, of reunion, of joy, of gladness,” Catherine also sees it as spurring us on to evangelical zeal:
Who beholding the ‘death’ of Mary does not think of her life? And who, thinking of this, does not want to arise and go preaching the Gospel of her Son, the gospel of love for Him? That love must spill itself into each life, change it, and go on spilling, even overflowing on one’s neighbor, on the world.[vi]