Sunday, August 15, 2021
Holy Ghost Church – 8:00, 10:00 & 5:00 Masses
Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab; Psalm 45:10, 11, 12, 16; 1 Corinthians 15:20-27; Luke 1:39-56
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Assumption is when Mary was taken to heaven at the conclusion of her earthly life.
In 1950 Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Assumption to be an official dogma of the Church, confirming the preexisting belief of the church. This dogma recognizes that the Blessed Virgin Mary was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, at the end of her earthly life. While not officially proclaimed until 1950, the belief that Mary had been assumed body and soul into heaven has its roots in the early Church.
So just what is a dogma, what does it mean? An official dogma is defined as a truth concerning faith or morals, which is (1) revealed by God, (2) transmitted from the Apostles in the Scriptures or by Sacred Tradition, and (3) proposed by the Church for the acceptance of the faithful. A dogma is both a divine revelation AND an authoritative teaching of the Church. A dogma must be faithfully accepted by every Catholic, even if we don’t fully understand it. Therefore, we Catholics hold the Assumption of Mary to be entirely true. We are obligated to believe it if we are to be in communion with the Church.
Let’s now take a moment to learn a bit more about the Ark of the Covenant mentioned in the opening verse of today’s first reading. What does this have to do with the Assumption?
The Ark was a wooden chest, overlaid with gold, that contained the tablets of the law, the Ten Commandments. It also contained the manna that fed the Israelites in the desert and Aaron’s staff, which possessed miraculous powers granted by God. The Ark was symbolically God’s throne, and was understood to contain the very presence of God himself.
The Ark was built by Moses during his 40-day stay on Mount Sinai when he received the Ten Commandments from God. God would speak to Moses from between the two gold cherubim that adorned the top of the Ark. It was carried by the Israelites during their 40 years of wandering in the desert and whenever they set up camp for the night, the Ark was placed in a sacred tent called the Tabernacle.
References to the Ark can be found throughout the Old Testament.
If you follow the daily scripture readings for the Mass, you’ll recall the reading from Joshua this past Thursday in which we learn that priests who were carrying the Ark went into the Jordan River, causing the water to stop flowing so the Israelites could safely cross on the dry ground of the river bed.
The Ark was also carried into battle, leading the people to victory. The most well-known instance of this is the Battle of Jericho, when it was carried around the city once a day for six days, then seven times on the 7th day and with a great shout “the walls came tumbling down.”
While there are many more stories about the Ark found in the Old Testament, the important thing to remember is that it was God’s dwelling place on earth and that it protected and empowered the Israelites during their journeys.
OK, Deacon Scott, why are you giving us all this information on the Ark of the Covenant? What’s its connection to Mary and her Assumption?
Here’s the connection. The Church Fathers taught that because the Word of God, Jesus Christ, became incarnate in her womb, Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant. God’s eternal Word dwelt physically within her for 9 months, similarly to how God was spiritually present in Moses’ ark. Mary’s womb was God’s dwelling place, just as the Ark was God’s dwelling place for the ancient Israelites.
According to St. John Damascene, “it was necessary that she who preserved her virginity inviolate in childbirth should also have her body kept free from corruption after death.” God wished to preserve his sacred vessel, Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, from corruption. It’s that simple.
The tradition that identifies Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant has a biblical foundation, this is not just something we Catholics made up.
In the Gospel of Luke, Gabriel tells Mary that the Holy Spirit will “overshadow” her, using the same Greek word that was used to describe the descent of God’s presence on the tabernacle, the tent, that contained the Ark. For nine months the womb of the Virgin was God’s dwelling place, his tabernacle on the earth.
The Gospel reading of the Visitation, also echoes the Old Testament passages about the Ark. When King David saw the Ark he said “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” Elizabeth uses essentially the same words when she says how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
Also noteworthy is that when David approached the Ark he shouted, danced and leapt with abandon in front of it. Likewise, when Mary approached Elizabeth, John the Baptist leapt in her womb. John was from the priestly line of Aaron, who’s staff was in the Ark. Both Aaron and John leapt and danced in the presence of the Ark.
Finally, when the Old Testament ark arrived, as when Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s house, they were both greeted with shouts of joy! The Greek word for Elizabeth’s crying out for in a loud voice is a rare word used in conjunction with Old Testament liturgical ceremonies that were centered around the Ark and worship. This word isn’t used anywhere else in the New Testament. Clearly the Jewish people of the early Church would have understood this connection.
Are these just coincidences? Hardly. Moses’ Ark contained the tablets of the Law, the manna from the desert and the priestly staff of Aaron. In Mary, the new Ark, we find the Word of God, the Bread of Life and the High Priest of the new people of God.
As Catholics we are truly blessed to understand that Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, would be taken body and soul into the heavenly courts and seated on her heavenly throne to intercede for us, to whisper in Jesus’ ear, so to speak, all of our needs and intentions. Just as Mary interceded for the couple in Cana who ran out of wine at their wedding, so does Mary intercede for us, but now as the Queen of Heaven.
There is no more powerful intercessor than our Blessed Mother, no one closer to Our Lord than his mother, no one with more influence than the Mother of God.
So, here’s my promised practical advice. It’s simple and easily achievable. Ready?
Pray the Rosary daily. While there are many devotions to Mary that we can use to help us on our spiritual journey to heaven, the most well-known and perhaps the most powerful is the Holy Rosary.
Do you pray the rosary daily? Do you pray it with your spouse and your family? If not, why not? Why wouldn’t you want to tap into the many graces that come from praying this powerful devotion?
It is said by many that when you pray the rosary you will discover the following surprising things happening in your life. You’ll become less selfish, more disciplined, you’ll receive insights from Our Lady, you’ll have more courage, your day proceeds more calmly, you’ll have extra awareness before the moment of temptation, and the difficult problems of your life become less complicated.
Praying the rosary takes no more than 20 minutes. If pressed for time you can even pray half of it on your way to work and the other half on your way home. However you do it, pray it every day!
As the Ark of the Covenant was carried into battle by the ancient Israelites, Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, the Queen of Heaven, assumed body and soul into heaven where she sits on her throne as the most powerful creature in heaven and on earth, will most certainly defend us in our earthly and our spiritual battles if we only ask her to intercede for us.
Praying the Rosary is the tried and true way to connect our heart with hers, asking her to offer our intentions to her Son.
Let us take full advantage of this reality of our faith and honor Mary our Mother daily by praying the calming, soothing and powerful prayers of the Rosary.
It will change your life.
God bless you.