Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – 15 August
The commemoration of the death of the Blessed Virgin Mary (the Dormition, or falling asleep, as it was known in the East) is known as the Assumption because of the tradition that her body did not decay but that she was raised up, body and soul, into heaven. This tradition was already present in the sixth century; by the beginning of the twentieth century it was widespread; and after consulting the views of bishops all over the world, the Pope formally and infallibly declared the doctrine of the Assumption to be part of the authentic and ancient doctrine of the universal Church.
Below is a translation of Pope Francis’ address before and after the recitation of the Angelus prayer today (15 Aug 2017) at noon to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
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Before the Angelus
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Today, Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Gospel presents to us the young woman of Nazareth that, having received the Angel’s announcement, left in haste to be close to Elizabeth, in the last months of her miraculous pregnancy. Arriving at her home, Mary receives from her mouth the words that came to form the “Hail Mary” prayer: “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” (Luke 1:42). In fact, the greatest gift that Mary brings to Elizabeth – and to the whole world – is Jesus, who now lives in her; and lives not only by faith and expectation, as in so many women of the Old Testament: Jesus took human flesh from the Virgin for His mission of salvation.
In Elizabeth’s home, and that of her husband Zachariah, where sadness reigned before because of the lack of children, now there is the joy of a baby about to arrive: a baby that will become the great John the Baptist, Precursor of the Messiah. And when Mary arrives, joy overflows and bursts from hearts, because Jesus’ invisible but real presence fills everything with meaning: life, the family, the salvation of the people . . . everything! This full joy is expressed with Mary’s voice in the stupendous prayer that Luke’s Gospel has transmitted to us and that is called Magnificat, from the first Latin word. It is a song of praise to God who does great things through humble persons, unknown to the world, as Mary herself was and her husband Joseph, and as Nazareth, the place where they lived was also. The great things that God has wrought with humble persons, the great things the Lord does in the world with the humble, because humility is like an emptiness that gives place to God. The humble is powerful because he is humble, not because he is strong. And this is the grandeur of the humble and of humility. I would like to ask you – and also myself – but don’t answer in a loud voice: each one answer in his heart: “how is my humility doing?”
The Magnificat sings to the merciful and faithful God, Who fulfils His plan of salvation with the little ones and the poor, with those that have faith in Him, that trust His Word, as Mary did. See Elizabeth’s exclamation: “Blessed is she who believed” (Luke 1:45). In that home, Jesus’ coming through Mary not only created an atmosphere of joy and fraternal communion, but also an atmosphere of faith that leads to hope, to prayer to praise.
We would like all this to happen on our homes today. Celebrating Mary Most Holy Assumed into Heaven, we would like Her, once again, to bring to us, to our families, to our communities, that immense gift, that unique grace, that we must always ask for first of all and above all other graces, which we also have at heart: the grace that is Jesus Christ!
By bringing Jesus, Our Lady brings to us also a new joy, full of meaning. She brings to us a new capacity to go through painful and difficult moments with faith; She brings us the capacity of mercy, to forgive one another, to understand each other, to support one another.
Mary is model of virtue and faith. In contemplating Her today assumed into Heaven, in the final fulfilment of Her earthly itinerary, we thank Her because she always goes before us in our pilgrimage of life and of faith – She is the first disciple. And we ask Her to protect and support us, that we may have a strong, joyful and merciful faith; that She help us to be saints, to meet with Her one day in Paradise.