The Mother Of Christ by Father Vassall-Phillips Part 98.

It has often been asked why the Church has appointed to be read as the Gospel in the Mass of the Assumption the passage in which St. Luke tells us the story of the solicitude of Martha and the devotion of her sister Mary as " she sat at Jesus' feet and heard His Word." It begins: "A certain woman named Martha received Him into her house;" it ends: " Mary hath chosen the better part which shall not be taken from her." 1 We are told that the active life is here denoted by Martha, and the contemplative life by her sister Mary, and that the Church would remind us that both are united perfectly in the person of the Blessed Virgin, who ministered to our Lord with Martha, and with Mary sat at His Feet, hearing His Word—thus receiving, in its fulness, on the day of her Assumption that better part which shall never be taken from her. No doubt this is absolutely true. Still I cannot help hazarding the suggestion that there is something else which we may do well to ponder. If Martha received the Lord into her house, so did, and far more wondrously, the Blessed Virgin. The Feast of the Assumption commemorates the receiving by our Lord of the Blessed Virgin into His House. Our Lady is in Heaven now, but we do well to remember that once, like us, she was upon this earth. The Feast of Mary's Assumption is the Festival of her home-coming ; for this reason it was so full of triumph—because she once gave a home to Jesus Christ her Lord, who has in return prepared for her the home which is hers for ever. If, with Martha and her sister Mary, and with the Blessed Mother of God, we will but welcome Him into our poor house, then one day He will welcome us to His Father's House, where there are many mansions, and there will be room even for us. We can, then, wait with faith and confidence, knowing that He has already welcomed to their home the souls of Martha and of her sister Mary, and of all those who have acknowledged Him on earth. Above all has He welcomed His most faithful Mother—her immaculate soul reunited to her body—for, in her case at least, His Love would brook no delay, but came leaping over the hills, skipping over the valleys, that He might meet and glorify the Mother who is so near to His Heart. Her glory had been joined to His own by the Psalmist of old: " Arise, O Lord, into Thy Resting Place, Thou and the Ark which Thou hast sanctified." (Psalm cxxxi. 8.) Such is the Mystery that we con template with joy and gladness as year by year we celebrate in the Church of God Mary's glorious Assumption by her Son.

A question remains, to which no answer can be given with certainty. Was our Lady alone in the Docs the privilege of corporeal Assumption before the general Resurrection, or did she share ' it with others ? The Faith teaches us— so here there can be no question amongst Catholics—that the Immaculate Conception was a unique grace bestowed upon our Lady only. But we are nowhere taught by our religion that no Saint is present bodily in Heaven, excepting the Blessed Virgin. To me it seems likely (though we cannot know for certain) that this privilege was shared by St. Joseph, St. John the Evangelist, and the Saints of whom it is recorded by St. Matthew that they were raised to life and appeared in Jerusalem after the Resurrection. (Matt, xxviii. 52, 53.) It was the general opinion of antiquity that these holy patriarchs did not return to Limbo, but were taken up bodily into Heaven by our Lord at His Ascension. 2 With regard to St. Joseph and St. John, they are the only great Saints of the New Testament in whose case, as in that of our Lady, there never has been any tradition as to their bodily Relics. It was very commonly believed in ancient times that St. John was body and soul in Heaven. 3 Very possibly St. Joseph was amongst the Saints who appeared in the Holy City after the Resurrection; in any event—quite apart from the fact that his Relics do not exist, which, as we have seen, is in itself most significant—it would be hard to believe that a privilege, if bestowed upon others, would not have been granted by our Lord to His own Foster-Father, the Spouse of His Blessed Mother.

1 Luke x. 38-42. This gospel, with the addition of Luke xi. 27, 28, is read in the Eastern Liturgy on the Feasts of our Lady's Nativity and Presentation, as well as on that of her Assumption, and in the Mozarabic Liturgy (with the same addition) on the Feast of the Assumption.

2 St. Jerome, Comment in Loc. ; St. Augustine, Ep., 164 (al. 99) ; St. Epiphanius, L., iv. 12 ; Eusebius, Demonst. Evangel ; Origen, Cont. Cels., II., 16. Cf. Suarez, LIII, Art. iii.

3 St. Ambrose, In Ps., cxviii., cap. xx., n. II. St. Augustine, In Joan. Tr., cxxiv. ci. 3. Serm., 253, c. 3, 4. St. Gregory of Tours, De Miraculis, Lib. I.