By Frank Wessling
This is a feast day for Catholics, but how many of us join in the celebration? It’s not one of those fun religious days, like Christmas, with parties, presents and the company of millions joining in a public festival.
Today, Aug. 15, is quieter, so quiet and seemingly private that many Catholics couldn’t say what the feast is if asked. It’s not a fun day; merely what the Church calls a special holy day, our commemoration of Mary’s Assumption into heaven.
Call it the model climax in our cosmic Christian love story. This is why the Catholic Church says it’s important today to gather in church for reflection and celebration. This day, as with all holy days, is important for realizing who we are and our ultimate goal in life.
Unfortunately, the Assumption seems like just another elaborate, exotic story out of theology, not anything we common folks need to know about. Not only Catholics, but the Orthodox and many other Christian communities say otherwise because Mary is one of us, and the trajectory of her life is the one all of us aim for in faith.
What she did and where she went is our faith map – all of us, men as much as women.
The basic story is simple. At the end of her mortal life, wherever and however it happened, we believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was fully “assumed” into eternal life.
That climax for Mary was the appropriate ending for what began in faith when she accepted motherhood. Hers was an acceptance not only of the mystery that comes with every human pregnancy, every new human life. Her “Yes” to new life was completely open, unlimited, receptive to the ultimate in creative energy, to God.
She was fully open to God, and God in the end was completely open to her. That’s the story of Mary, the Mother of God. It’s a story that had to develop out of belief that Jesus of Nazareth, her child, is the Word of God, the human expression of God.
The experience of Mary belongs to all of us because it is common. We have all had times when something new challenges us. New jobs, moving to a new home, new subjects to study, a foreign language to learn, marriage. The unknown can be entered reluctantly, tentatively, with fear, or with full trust and hope. These attitudes often determine from the beginning whether our experience is good or bad, life-giving and expansive or deadening.
Mary’s attitude was the model of trust, and she sustained it all the way through the trial of life with Jesus. In the end, as Jesus showed that divine love is greater than death, and is the true goal of the human spirit, she was ready to follow him. Death had no grip on her at all.
That path is also open to us when we believe and live as Mary did, saying “Yes” to all invitations toward life in abundance. Be pregnant with God and there is no end to the possibilities. It’s why we’re asked to remember and celebrate Mary in so many ways. Her Assumption is our future in hope.