The Attraction of Mary

The Attraction of Mary

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. fr Robert Ombres explains how the unique relationship between Christ and his mother is important for each of us.

We can know quite a lot about an individual, and not know them. This is true, for example, about people often in the news. And we’ve all found ourselves saying something like: I’ve heard so much about you, and now I am looking forward to getting to know you. No amount of knowledge about someone can be the same as knowing them, but knowing certain things as true about someone can make us want to know them or to know them better. Facts can attract.

This kind of ordinary, everyday experience could be a good starting point in celebrating the Assumption of Mary, Our Lady. To know that Mary was assumed into heaven cannot remain as just one more fact that we know about her. Knowing this truth about Mary, knowing it infallibly for certain, affects how we relate to her, and it is an invitation to relate to her more deeply and with even greater joy.

We believe that Mary, the immaculate Mother of God, is assumed body and soul, that her whole person is in heaven together with Jesus Christ. All this means that we are invited to a unique kind of relationship with her of the kind not possible with any other saint in heaven.

It is not that Mary is around 2000 years old in earthly time, but invisibly and without feeling her age. In a God-granted, gracious way Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. This relates her to Jesus Christ in a special way, as she did in becoming his mother. Mary’s bond to Christ is without parallel, physically and spiritually, in body and soul. Jesus did not have a biological father, he did not become one flesh with a woman in marriage, he had no children. His is a unique bodily bond to his mother. She also related to him uniquely in her soul, spiritually in faith and immaculately without sin and full of grace.

As Mary relates to Christ in a uniquely glorious way, she draws us closer to him and to each other. She draws us closer to Christ because the two of them are so close, and we can hardly know Mary without knowing her Son and God. Mary is given to us as our mother too, in the order of grace. A devotion to Mary that does not lead us to Christ or fails to make us aware of our common dependence on him cannot be fully Catholic. A devotion to Christ that ignores Mary risks undermining his humanity – it also deprives us of part of our own hope.

The centre of our Christian hope is not so much that our souls will be in heaven, though that will be a great joy in itself. Our God-given hope is that we will be resurrected bodily. At the Mass during the day, the Collect asks that God grant us that, always attentive to the things that are above, we may merit to be sharers of Mary’s glory. The liturgy makes us attentive to these realities, and this attentiveness spills over into our personal prayer life and our behaviour towards others. The Prayer after Communion of this same Mass has us asking the Lord that through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom he assumed into heaven, we may be brought to the glory of the resurrection. Our deepest hope is shaped by what has happened to Mary.

Christian hope does not only point to the kind of future awaiting us, but also affects how we live and behave now. Hope is not cosmic fantasy or wishful thinking. It is for real, for real people in a real world. Grace is given to us for struggle, the struggle against all that diminishes our humanity and that of others. Importantly therefore grace is given us to struggle against sin and against death. The more we relate to Mary assumed by God body and soul into heavenly glory, the greater will be our commitment to resisting all the ways that here on earth bodies and souls can be disfigured.

Readings: Apocalypse 11:19,12:1-6,10|1 Corinthians 15:20-26|Luke 1:39-56

fr. Robert Ombres, former Procurator General of the Order of Preachers, lives and teaches at Blackfriars, Oxford and at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome.