- The Little Office
- 1 Mirror of Justice
- 2 The Saviour
- 3 The First Years
- 4 In The Temple
- 5 Nazareth
- 6 The Annunciation
- 7 The Visitation
- 8 The Magnificat
- 9 The Benedictus
- 10 Christmas
- 11 The Magi
- 12 At The Manger
- 13 Nunc Dimittis
- 14 The Presentation
- 15 Flight into Egypt
- 16 The Holy Innocents
- 17 Life at Nazareth
- 18 Jesus in the Temple
- 19 Jesus at labour
- 20 Death of St. Joseph
- 21 Baptism Of Jesus
- 22 Jesus In The Desert
- 23 Calling The Apostles
- 24 Marriage at Cana
- 25 Silence Of The Gospel
- 26 Start Of The Passion
- 27 Foot Of The Cross
- 28 Jesus Laid In The Tomb
- 29 Resurrection
- 30 Ascension, Pentecost
- 31 The Assumption
Our Lady’s Assumption, By Daniel A. Lord, S. J. Part 3.
THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE
But what has all this to do with us of the immediate present?
Saints are often canonised by the voice of the people. Moved by the dear signs of their heroic virtue, the Christian world cries aloud for their canonisation. In ancient days they rushed to the Vatican, summoned forth the Holy Father, and cried: “Give us a saint.” And he would reply: “The voice of the people is the voice of God. You have a saint.”
To-day the persistent cries of the Christian world hastened the canonisation of the Little Flower of Jesus and the Cure d’Ars in much the same fashion. It was almost as if the Holy Father had yielded to the voice of the people demanding a saint.
Somewhat the same thing has occasionally occurred in the case of dogmas. The people, either because they saw their beloved Faith attacked, or perhaps because they were moved by a divine impulse to stress some particular article of Faith, have clamoured that a truth long believed be proclaimed as divinely revealed.
A CLAMOROUS WORLD
An instance of this seems to be taking place about us today. A united Catholic world, suddenly, and apparently spontaneously, begs the Holy Father to proclaim the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary into heaven as an article of faith. From every civilised country petitions signed by millions of names have been sent to the Pope, all begging that Mary be given this signal honour.
The beautiful feast, long observed, with its consoling doctrine, long believed, has rested for centuries in the heart of the Christian world. Catholics have been content to celebrate the day and lovingly cherish their belief. Now they beg that the age-old tradition become a binding dogma.
Certainly so widespread and important a demonstration on the part of the faithful cannot be without deep significance. The Holy Spirit has a way of arousing men’s hearts to a realisation of sharp perils and pressing needs.
Perhaps, as the eyes of the Catholic world are focused on the Assumption of Mary into heaven, the Holy Spirit is drawing men’s hearts from the insistent claims of time to the almost forgotten claims of eternity. Surely the earth has pressed in upon us with a beauty and charm, a luxury and fascination overpowering in their grip on our senses. Can it be that just at this moment our eyes are lifted to Mary spurning earth and entering heaven, so that, seeing her glory, watching her triumphant passage through death into eternal life, earth may lose much of its power to fascinate and bind us to itself?
Perhaps the Holy Spirit is using the dogma as a way of showing afresh the importance of pure women. Our modern literature has grown often terrifyingly evil. The virtue of women is astoundingly flouted from the screen, the stage, the magazines, the best-seller. Philosophies of loose living have taught young men and women to regard purity as a bit of a joke, and vice as the inevitable pastime of youth. Purity has been considered prudery, and wanton women have found a widespread and quite frightening popularity with the public.
Now, if ever, the world needs Mary. It needs her purity and her sinlessness. It needs to be reminded that for the innocent Mother of God was reserved the glory of the Assumption; that, because her body was so wonderfully pure, it broke the binding chains even of the grave. The vision of the pure Mary, lifted body and soul into heaven, should do much to bring into sharp relief the beauty of purity and the dignity of motherhood, and the importance to the world of women whose lives are moulded on that of the Mother of God.
THE WORLD WAITS
Whatever the reason for this sudden desire on the part of the Catholic world for a definition of the dogma of the Assumption, we may say that Christendom waits almost on tiptoe for the Holy Father to speak.
Perhaps he will not. But whether the petitions be granted or not, the sudden rebirth of interest in the feast and doctrine of the Assumption has given the modern world a new consciousness of the dignity and splendour of God’s Mother. Men have re-awakened to how much Christ prizes purity and virginity. They feel a new interest in the saintly woman who follows the flower-marked footsteps of Mary. Youth grows reverent before women who are like their Heavenly Mother.
The Christian world; until the dawn of Protestant doubt and denial, felt that, whatever other traditions might need deep faith and the humble acceptance accorded to mysteries, here was one tradition that simply cried aloud for acceptance. The human heart found the Assumption not only beautiful, but inevitable.
The body of Mary was unique among all the bodies ever formed to house an immortal soul. It was predestined by God to be the first temple of the Incarnate Divinity. It was the first shrine of God made man.
More than that, it was the fountain from which the Holy Spirit drew the sacred materials with which He formed, by an astounding mystery and miracle, the body worn through life by the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
Nothing in all human history has been so distinctive as this privilege accorded to Mary’s body.
THE PUREST BODY
Art and devotion have never doubted that Mary’s body was uniquely beautiful among all the daughters of Eve. “The living ark of the living God,” St. John Damascene calls her. Uniquely sacred, uniquely beautiful, uniquely honoured, from her flesh and blood were taken the flesh and blood of God made man. Within her was performed: that mystery of the Incarnation which is the central doctrine of Christianity.
All comparisons fail beside the beauty and sacredness of this. The Ark of the Covenant was regarded as sacred by the Jews, and was decorated by the most exquisite art of the period, because it held the book of God’s laws, the jars of manna, and, for a time, the tablets on which God had graven the Commandments.
When the ark was in danger of falling into pagan hands, the Jewish armies fought with a resistless courage and daring. When actually, because of the sins of the Jews, the ark fell into the hands of the Philistines, the Hebrew nation mourned in sackcloth and ashes, and gathered every ounce of their strength to rescue this precious shrine from the sacrilege that polluted it.
Yet the body of Mary held, not the dead elements and records of the Old Law, but the Divine Author and Source of the New.