Photo: The reception of Mary into heaven is depicted in a stained glass window at St. Mary’s, Manhasset.. The feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Aug. 15, celebrates the belief that Mary was taken body and soul into heaven at the end of her life. (Mary Iapalucci photo)
Vatican City, Aug 15, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) – During his homily for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope Francis said that this feast helps us reflect on the Christian themes of struggle, resurrection and hope.
“Mary has of course already entered, once and for all, into heavenly glory. But this does not mean that she is distant or detached from us,” the Pope preached Aug. 15 during a Mass at the Piazza of Liberty in Castel Gandolfo.
“Rather Mary accompanies us, struggles with us, sustains Christians in their fight against the forces of evil.”
While pontiffs have customarily spent August in Castel Gandolfo, Pope Francis has remained in Rome this month, traveling this morning to the resort town by helicopter to say Mass for today’s holy day of obligation.
He began his homily by reflecting on “Lumen Gentium,” Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church, which refers twice to Mary’s assumption, body and soul, into heaven.
The first of the themes found in “Lumen Gentium” is Mary’s solidarity with our struggles, which was found also in the Mass’ first reading, from Revelation, of a struggle between a woman and a dragon.
“The figure of the woman, representing the Church, is, on the one hand, glorious and triumphant and yet, on the other, still in travail,” the Pope noted.
The Church, whose “dual condition” Mary shares, is both “already associated in some way” with Christ’s glory in heaven and still living “the trials and challenges” of the conflict between God and Satan.
This struggle is faced by every Christian disciple, and “Mary does not leave them alone,” Pope Francis said. “The Mother of Christ and of the Church is always with us. She walks with us always, she is with us.”
The Pope recommended the rosary as a prayer with Mary that “has this ‘suffering’ dimension, that is, of struggle, a sustaining prayer in the battle against the evil one and his accomplices. The Rosary also sustains us in the battle.”
Mary’s assumption also shows her solidarity with the resurrection of the dead and with Christ’s resurrection, the event and “fundamental truth” that is the basis of Christian faith.
In his resurrection, Christ “entered into eternal life with all the humanity he had drawn from Mary; and she, the Mother, who followed him faithfully throughout her life, followed him with her heart, and entered with him into eternal life, which we also call heaven.”
In her solidarity with her son in the “martyrdom of the Cross,” Mary lived the Passion “to the depths of her soul” and so was given “the gift of resurrection.”
“Christ is the first fruits from the dead and Mary is the first of the redeemed, the first of ‘those who are in Christ.’”
“She is our Mother, but we can also say that she is our representative, our sister, our eldest sister, she is the first of the redeemed, who has arrived in heaven.”
The final theme of the assumption, Pope Francis taught, is hope: the hope of those who live the struggle between good and evil and who believe in Christ’s resurrection.
The Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise at the Visitation, he said, is “the song of hope,” which is also “the song of many saints … some famous, and very many others unknown to us but known to God: moms, dads, catechists, missionaries, priests, sisters, young people, even children and grandparents.”
“These have faced the struggle of life while carrying in their heart the hope of the little and the humble.”
The Pope linked hope to persecution and the Cross, saying the Magnificat is “particularly strong” in the places “where the Body of Christ is suffering the Passion.”
“If there is no hope, we are not Christian. That is why I like to say: do not allow yourselves to be robbed of hope.”
He exhorted his listeners, “may we not be robbed of hope, because this strength is a grace, a gift from God which carries us forward with our eyes fixed on heaven.”
He concluded by encouraging Christians to pray the Magnificat with Mary, who accompanies and suffers with us.
“With all our heart let us too unite ourselves to this song of patience and victory, of struggle and joy, that unites the triumphant Church with the pilgrim one, earth with heaven, and that joins our lives to the eternity towards which we journey.”