The Biblical readings chosen by the Church to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption weave a rich tapestry of insight into the Mother of the Redeemer, and praise of God for Mary's role in the Church. From the Old Testament image of the Ark of the Covenant, to Mary's Magnificat that especially glorifies God, "her Savior," the Church reminds us through the Scriptures of the wonderful gift Mary is to the Church, and the rich source of spiritual strength to be found in devotion to her.
The vigil and feast day readings for the Assumption create a Biblical tapestry of Mary. From the book of Chronicles, the Church places before us the transfer of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was the place where God dwelt, where his shekinah glory rested upon the handmade vessel of wood. David is bringing the ark of God to the place he had prepared for it.
How evocative these words are of Mary! She is the place God prepared Himself to dwell. The skekinah glory of the Holy Spirit rests upon her to fill this "handmaid" vessel with the body and blood of God. While David brings the ark to the tent he has pitched for it, Mary becomes the receptive ground where the Word will pitch his tent. ("And the Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us" is the literal translation of John 1:14).
The vigil Gospel from Luke teaches us that this receptive ground not only carried the Word in her womb and nursed him at her breasts, but also heard the Word and obeyed it (Luke 11:27-28). More than any other person, Mary lived obedience to the Word of God. Hers was the most active journey of faithchoosing to believe and obeyeven in the face of suffering and death.
Although she was immaculately conceived, she didn't yet live the beatific vision. She lived by faith, trusting that God's promises to her and the nation of Israel would be fulfilled.
Perhaps this is what makes her Magnificat (the feast day Gospel) so sublime!
Her praise of God isn't an original composition, as if God were acting in a new and preferential way. It is a lyrical mosaic of Old Testament canticles, psalms, and songs of worship. Mary is trying to express through her being the whole of God's self-giving to Israel.
Let's listen to these marvelous Scriptural echoes:
Mary: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior." (Isaiah 61:10: "I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul").
Mary: "For he looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed." (1 Samuel 2:8: "He raises the needy from the dust, from the ash heap lifts the poor, to seat them with nobles and make a glorious throne their heritage").
Mary: "The mighty one has done great things for me, and holy is his name." (Deuteronomy 10:21: "He is your glory, he your God, who has done for you those great and terrible things which your own eyes have seen").
Mary: "His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him." (Psalm 103:17: "But the Lord's kindness is forever, toward the faithful from age to age").
Mary: "He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart." (Psalm 118:15: "The Lord's right hand strikes with power").
Mary: "He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones, but lifted up the lowly." (Sirach 10:14: "The thrones of the arrogant God overturns and establishes the lowly in their stead").
Mary: "The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty." (Psalm 107:9: "For he satisfied the thirsty, filled the hungry with good things").
Mary: "He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy." (Psalm 98:3: The Lord "has remembered faithful love toward the house of Israel").
Mary: "according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever." (Micah 7:20: "You will show faithfulness to Jacob, and grace to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from days of old").
Mary does not exalt herself; she exalts God. Everything about her, from her immaculate conception to her assumption, displays the magnificence of God.
Even the title of Pope Pius XII's apostolic constitution defining the dogma of the assumption reflects this truth: "Munificentissimus Deus""The most bountiful God."
The most bountiful God prepared Mary as the ark of the new covenant; the most bountiful God lavished upon her the Word of Life; the most bountiful God raised her virginal body to heaven so as to make our own belief in the resurrection stronger and more effective. Hers is a Biblical tapestry, not a self-woven one. Perhaps the psalmist says it best: "Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark, which you have sanctified" (Psalm 131:8).
Katrina J. Zeno, a freelance writer and speaker on topics such as the nature of men and women, singles and romance, the culture of life, the new feminism, prayer, and parenting, is also co-foundress of Women of the Third Millennium, an organization that promotes the dignity and vocation of women through one-day retreats. Her articles and interviews have appeared numerous periodicals, including Our Sunday Visitor, New Covenant magazine, Catholic Parent, and Franciscan Way, and she has spoken in the U.S., Canada, England, and Trinidad.