The Moment Preordained

The Moment Preordained

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Fr Brendan Slevin preaches on Pope Pius XII’s definition of the dogma of the Assumption in 1950.

And Mary said,
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
Each year on 15 August the Catholic Church celebrates the Assumption of our Lady into heaven. That is, we celebrate that day when Mary the Mother of Jesus was given the extraordinary privilege of being lifted up body and soul into heaven.
It was on 1 November 1950 that Pope Pius XII proclaimed to the world that the lifting up of Mary by God into heaven was indeed a revealed truth. In the official document he wrote:
The universal Church, in which the Spirit of truth actively dwells, and which is infallibly guided by Him to an ever more perfect knowledge of revealed truths, has down the centuries manifested her belief in many ways.
The bishops from all over the world ask almost unanimously that the truth of the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven be defined as a dogma of divine and catholic faith.
This truth is based on Sacred Scripture and deeply embedded in the minds of the faithful; it has received the approval of liturgical worship from the earliest times; it is perfectly in keeping with the rest of revealed truth, and has been lucidly developed and explained by the studies, the knowledge and wisdom of theologians.
Considering all these reasons we deem that the moment preordained in the plan of divine providence has now arrived for us to proclaim solemnly this extraordinary privilege of the Virgin Mary?
To attempt to understand the significance of this proclamation in our own lives, we must journey back to that day in 1950 – the ‘moment preordained’.
The world had suffered two World Wars. Humanity was tearing itself apart, horrors once unimaginable, unspeakable, were witnessed by the world. At no time in history has the fallen, corrupt nature of our planet been so universally seen and felt.
The pictures of the twisted, emaciated corpses at Auschwitz. The shadows of human beings on the walls of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; all that remained of men and women once full of life, vaporised in the twinkling of an eye. The agonising pictures of those not so lucky, those who suffered slow deaths from radiation, those who still bear the scars and suffer the pain of that generation. These were not natural disasters, so-called acts of God, these were acts of mankind.
Then in 1949 the forces of Mao Tse-tung were victorious and the People’s Republic of China established. The world, when it was not tearing itself apart, seemed to be rejecting God and embracing communism.
Looking back at those generations one is forced to ask, ‘Where is their God?’; ‘Where is the victory of the cross?’. And yet it is precisely at that moment that the Church does speak. In the shadow of such atrocities and rejection of God, the time preordained had arrived. It could now be proclaimed that Mary was lifted up into heaven, the sinless woman who watched as a sinful world put her Son to death, a Jewess who suffered alone with her Jewish son in the silence of Golgotha, both of them rejected by the world.
In her suffering Mary shared in a unique way the sufferings of her Son, those sufferings that find echoes in the sufferings of other human beings throughout the generations leading up to 1950 and beyond. All generations testify to the sufferings of that man and woman.
Humankind’s inhumanity toward their fellow creatures is alas not confined to the past. The shadow of sin still hangs over our world. But from out of the shadow comes a great light. Mary once clothed in that shadow is now clothed with the sun.
So do we flee from the cross only to be engulfed by its shadow? Or do we stand with Mary under the shadow of the cross, the shadow of sin, our eyes fixed on the glory that is to come, the glory that has come but remains for us unseen?
He who is mighty has done great things for us, holy is his name.

Readings: Rev 11:19