The Feast of the Assumption
“When shall I come and appear before Thy face?”
We read in the life of St. Stanislaus Kostka that, being visited by sickness in Vienna, Mary appeared to him with the Infant Jesus upon her arm. The divine Child embraced the holy youth, while Mary told him distinctly that he should leave the world and enter the Society of Jesus. Without hesitation he obeyed, and traveled on foot all the way to Rome, where St. Francis Borgia received him into the Society.
But God had decreed that ere long he should set out upon another journey, and travel from Rome to Heaven. He was still in the morning of life, in the first bloom of early youth, when, before the year which had witnessed his entrance into religion elapsed, on the Feast of the Assumption, his pure soul winged its flight to God. What shortened his days and burst the bands which bound his soul to earth, was the ardor of his desire to behold Mary in heaven. He wrote to her in terms of glowing love, begging her to take him from this world, and to obtain for him the favor of celebrating the approaching feast of her glorious Assumption in the company of the angels and of the saints.
Mary heard his prayer. He died on the morning of her feast. Mary herself came to bring him with her to Heaven. Beloved in Christ, you may ask: What filled the heart of St. Stanislaus with such great longing to see Mary in heaven? It may be worth our while today to answer this question.
O Mary, Mother of fair love, crowned Queen of Heaven, may our longing to see you in Heaven so sanctify our lives that we may at an early day celebrate with St. Stanislaus the feast of your Assumption! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater glory of God!
St. Stanislaus longed for heaven. Great saint, we share that desire! Many are the reasons which inspire us with disgust for this world and excite in us a longing for heaven.
First, in regard to the exterior world in general and the life which we live, many long and weary years has the earth groaned under the curse of sin. There are indeed here below, even after the gates of Paradise are closed against us, many beautiful countries; but all men can not live there, and those who do, grow accustomed to the beauty which surrounds them and find it monotonous and tame.
Oh, how I long to behold the delights of the Lord in the country of the living–to behold what a God Who is infinite Beauty and Blessedness, and at the same time omnipotent, is able to create! Here on earth are men who, though wide tracts of land lie unused, can not call one foot of ground their own. O Mary, I long to leave this inhospitable country to enter heaven, there to exclaim: “Heaven is mine! All is mine!”
Here, according to the curse pronounced on man–“In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat thy bread”–he is obliged to earn his bread by weary toil, for that curse is fulfilled in every one to a greater or less degree.
O Mary, I desire to go home to heaven! Here is labor–there is reward; here is toil–there is rest; here is anxiety–there is peace. Here is one constant vicissitude–today rich, tomorrow poor; today in health, tomorrow in sickness; today honored, tomorrow despised; today flattered, tomorrow persecuted; today it is life, tomorrow death. In heaven we find rest eternal and perpetual joy. Oh, how I yearn to go to heaven! Here all is perishable–there all is eternal; here is suffering–there is rejoicing.
With what perfect justice, no doubt, could Job exclaim: “Man, born of a woman, liveth but a short time, and is filled with many miseries.” How many thorns of suffering spring up in life from the one single care to provide for one’s self and family! Often, with the most willing heart to labor, a person can even find no employment. To this are added innumerable painful sicknesses, and finally death. Oh, I long to leave this world to go to heaven, where, for ever and ever, no shadow of trouble can ever fall–no rain, no hunger, no thirst, no misery afflict the body–no separation distresses the soul; where no tears are shed; where there is naught but joy–eternal joy.
If we regard the society and the intercourse of men on earth, what a longing after heaven stirs up the heart of man! Oh, what terrible wickedness, servility, and malice, what falsehood and treachery, are found among men in this valley of tears! In heaven there is only the Communion of Saints.
Oh, I desire to leave this sink of moral corruption to enter the society of Angels and Saints–to fly from the company of creatures and enjoy an endless union with God Himself! As long as I live on earth I live in danger of offending God. In heaven it will be impossible for me to commit sin. Oh, thrice happy impossibility! Mary, I desire to leave this world to go to heaven!
If there were no other motive, this alone would be sufficient for a soul inflamed with love of God to long continually for heaven, where never a shadow of temptation or imperfection is to be found, where to displease God is an impossibility. The misery of this world and the happiness of the next was the daily subject of meditation for St. Stanislaus; hence his longing for the abode of the blessed.
But apart from all these motives, there is, for the child of Mary, one motive which, in the abstract, is alone powerful enough to nourish daily–yes, hourly–in our hearts the desire of Heaven. It is the wish to behold there this dear Mother, to offer her our thanks, and to share her beatitude forever. It was, above all others, this motive which so inflamed the heart of St. Stanislaus that it dissolved the fetters which held him to earth, and set him free to fly to heaven on this lovely feast so dear to the hearts of Mary’s devoted children.
Oh, how many reasons have we to long with St. Stanislaus for heaven! For if its general magnificence is so indescribably ravishing, and each dwelling there, each throne, each crown so resplendent with unfading glory, how magnificently will not the mansion, the palace, the throne, the crown shine forth which God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, have prepared for the Queen of heaven!
Oh, that I, too, might soon with St. Stanislaus behold them in all their beauty! Heaven is the kingdom of reward, with which nothing earthly can be compared. “Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive what God has prepared for His lovers.”
And as to Mary, each act of hers surpasses in merit those of the saints and angels. They are the jewels on her heavenly attire, the gems on her celestial crown.
It is your happy lot, St. Stanislaus, to gaze upon Mary today. Oh, that I too, ere long, may behold her there with you! I long to see Mary, as the mirror of justice, in the abundance of merit which distinguished her, which, from the beginning with her Immaculate Conception, augmented to the day on which her stainless soul departed this life.
I long to see her, to salute her, to thank God with and through her for her great glory and pre-election, and at the same time to see all the graces which she has obtained for me from Him, as the Mother of mercy, as Mother of divine grace. How much I am indebted to her intercession and solicitude for the rescue and sanctification of my soul!
Indeed, I long to enter heaven and to present to Mary my affectionate homage and veneration, my gratitude and love. Only in heaven can this be done to the entire satisfaction of my heart. Here in the land of my exile I can only thank her from afar, surrounded by the assaults of the enemy of salvation–there I will thank her as her rescued child; and not alone my thanks will be offered, for with them will go the ardent gratitude of the whole celestial host.
A heart penetrated with gratitude to God invites, as the Psalmist admonishes us, every creature in heaven and on earth to laud, praise, and thank God. The same may be justly said of our gratitude to Mary the Mother of God. Oh, what a motive to sigh after heaven with the fervent ardor which glowed in the heart of St. Stanislaus! What a joy and privilege, in the company of the Angels and Saints, to laud, praise, and thank Mary!
St. Stanislaus, the Holy Ghost moved thee to direct thy petition to Mary, because that divine Spirit chose thee as a model for youth. We, on the contrary, call upon thee to obtain for us through her the grace to celebrate yet often, but always in a more worthy manner, the Feast of her Assumption on earth, until we shall be called from this land of exile to celebrate with thee in heaven this happy feast, and with all the Angels and Saints rejoice in the possibly highest degree thereat. Amen!
“Mary hath chosen the better part, which shall not be taken from her.”–Luke x, 42.
“Mary is exalted above all the choirs of angels.” Thus, does the Church rejoice on the feast of today. Yes, Mary is, indeed, elevated to the most exalted degree of glory in heaven; for enthroned as Queen of heaven and earth, her place is nearest her divine, her beloved Son.
It is written of Jesus her Son: “God has exalted Him and given Him a name, that in the name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus entered into the glory of the Father.” This is also true of the glorification and honor of His most blessed Mother. He has elevated her and given her a name, that at the name of Mary every creature shall pay homage in heaven and on earth, and every tongue shall confess that Mary has entered into the glory of her Son.
No other creature possesses such a share in the glorification of Christ, in heaven, as Mary; and why? Ah! it was because she stood nearest to Christ upon earth. And what, my dearest Christians, gained her this great grace? It was her deep humility. In other words: Mary descended into the deepest depths of humiliation by the perfection to which she carried the virtue of humility, according to the example and imitation of Jesus Christ; and in proportion to the depth to which she humbled herself on earth, Christ, on His part, exalted her throne in heaven.
If we wish to enter the kingdom of glory as children of God; if we wish to reach heaven and participate in the glory of the Son; it is incumbent on us, while still on earth, to tread, with willing steps, the path of humiliations.
If we wish to exalt the throne of our glorification in heaven, then it is essential that we humble ourselves in life. This will become clear to us if we consider Mary as our model. I say in this regard: Mary ascended the highest point of glory in heaven, because, after her divine Son, no one on earth ever descended so deep than she in the practice of humility.
O Mary, most humble of all creatures, obtain for me, in preference to all other virtues, true humility of heart! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater honor and glory of God!
I said: Mary attained the highest degree of glory in heaven, because she humbled herself most deeply on earth, and, by the humility of her heart, modeled her life on that of her divine Son. It is written of Christ, that he not only humbled, but, as it were, annihilated himself, and that, therefore, God the Father exalted Him and elevated Him in glory above all the heavens. Through the prophets He styled Himself the lowest among men–an outcast of the people. He, the King of heaven, permitted Himself to die the death of a malefactor, to be ranked lower than a murderer, and even to be crucified between a murderer and a thief.
If Christ thus lowered Himself to the rank of the least of men, such likewise must have been the disposition of her whom He placed nearest to Himself on earth. Most-justly, therefore, has St. Bernard said: “If Christ had found a virgin more humble than Mary, He surely would have chosen her, and not Mary, for His Mother.”
We are informed, by private revelations to the Saints, that it was the singular desire of Mary to have the happiness of being a handmaid of that chosen virgin who should be so highly favored as to become the Mother of the promised Messiah, and yet it was upon herself that the divine choice was fixed. And why?
Mary herself, in that canticle of praise which is now entoned over the entire Catholic world, tells us why she was chosen: “Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid.” Thus Mary proclaimed her holy joy in the “Magnificat,” when Elizabeth saluted her as the Mother of the incarnate Word of God.
But it was not only this disposition of her heart, this humility, which prepared her for the dignity of becoming the Mother of God; it was also because she reached, in each of her works, the highest perfection of merit. In this most perfect humility we can certainly find the reason that she never in any way followed her own will, that no single action of her’s was ever marred by any shadow of self-will, but that her whole endeavor was to know and fulfill the Will of God.
Even when the angel saluted her, she called herself “the handmaid of the Lord.” And how beautifully was this disposition of her heart verified at her elevation to the Maternity of Christ; for when she was informed by the angel that she was the chosen Mother of the Saviour of the world, and therefore to be exalted above all creatures in heaven and on earth, she did not entone the “Te Deum;” no evidence of excessive or exuberant joy appeared in her heavenly countenance; but she uttered only the words of entire submission to the most holy will of God:
“Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to Thy word.”
“My will in her”–that is, the praise which the Holy Ghost confers upon her. Oh, how majestic, how holy, how great, is Mary in the humility of her heart, which, excepting the Sacred Heart of Christ, was in no other creature, not even in the angels of heaven, manifested in so perfect a degree. And in this perfect humility can be found the reason why the merits of her actions surpassed, in an immeasurable degree, that of all others, both men and angels.
It is not from the number of precious stones which are exposed to view that we judge of a person’s wealth, but from their size, their clearness and value. All the good works of the angels and saints may be compared to precious stones; but what determines their value? I answer: conformity of intention with the most holy will of God unmingled with any alloy of self-will, or obstinacy, or self-interest. Therefore, if I were so happy as to have the merit of only one good work of Mary, I would not change it for the united merits of all the angels and saints.
On the contrary, what, indeed, too often diminishes the merits of our good actions? It is a want of humility, the dust of self-love, self-conceit, and a lack of purity of intention, which causes man, with all the good works which he performs for the honor of God, to keep before his eyes himself–his own interest–which urges him to long for honor and distinction. Therefore, if we wish to increase the glory of that throne which awaits us in heaven, and to be nearer still to Mary, then it becomes necessary to humble ourselves, and to open, in all the good we do, the contest with self-love, and to desire nothing else than the greater honor and glory of God, for He has promised: “Those who glorify Me, those will I also one day glorify.”
What will increase our glory in heaven is especially our union with the most holy will of God in all sufferings and afflictions. Glance at the most holy Virgin, in her earthly life, and you will realize the truth of this remark. On earth, nearest the Cross; in heaven, next to the throne of her divine Son: on earth, Queen of martyrs; in heaven, Queen of the glorious and resplendent host of saints and angels: on earth, suffering the pangs of a heart pierced with the sword of grief; in heaven, happy in the possession of a heart filled with the purest celestial bliss.
And, my dear brethren, had not Christ Himself to enter into the joy of heaven by the rugged path of pain and grief? Undoubtedly He had, as we learn from the words addressed by Him through the Prophet: “Oh, all you that pass by the way, attend and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow!”
This was the mournful plaint which Christ, through the lips of the prophet, uttered centuries before, and well might it be addressed, by Mary, to the children of men, as she stood beneath the Cross: “Oh, all you that pass by the way”–all you who, during the long course of centuries, will listen to the tale of my Son’s passion–“attend and see if there be, except His, any sorrow like unto mine!”
Thus Christ entered into His joys and ascended the throne of His glory; thus did Mary and all the blessed who ever entered, or will enter, heaven, attain eternal joy. There is no other way to heaven than that of patience, of suffering for the love of God, in perfect union with His most holy will.
And why is it that we do not tread the path of suffering with the unfaltering step with which Jesus and Mary, and all the saints of God, walked therein? It is because humility is wanting in us; for how many, beloved in Christ, when the hand of the Lord presses upon them, cry out, in utter want of resignation: “What have we done, O Lord, to be thus afflicted?”
This is especially so when the trouble, or injury, comes from some one, whom we have benefited, but who has repaid us with ingratitude. It seldom happens that the children of the Church do not receive the cross from the hand of man as well as from the hand of God himself; but, alas! equally seldom do we find them exclaim, with sincere humility: “This and more yet have I deserved! It is, O God, Thy hand which strikes and chastises me, or which afflicts me, in order to give me occasion, through suffering, to show my love to Thee.” The trial is still harder so, if the trouble comes from one at whose hands we have had reason to expect treatment of a different kind. Mary experienced all these afflictions at the foot of the Cross. But she rejoiced to suffer innocently with the innocent Jesus, and to take upon herself the scorn and derision of the enemies and crucifiers of our Lord, in perfect union with the most holy will of God.
Behold here the degrees of humility, which lead us, while upon earth, through lowly paths, that in heaven we may reach to high degrees of glory, of that humility which prompts us to say: “O my God, O Lord, I deserve not the happiness of being a child of election, a child of thy Holy Church. I deserve no praise for the good I do. To Thee alone, O Lord, be all the honor. In every decree of Thine I will kiss Thy gracious fatherly hand; and when Thou dost please to try me by some heavy sorrow I will cry out: ‘Thy will be done.'”
And if you one day receive with this resignation the announcement of your approaching death, and yield up your spirit in perfect conformity to the will of God, desiring nothing further on earth than to die in the manner decreed by Him. O then, indeed, you will ascend so high in heaven that your throne will be bathed in the light of glory that inundates the throne of heaven’s Queen; and this because, while here on earth, O happy child of Mary, you tried to be like her: Meek and humble! Amen.
“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee!”
Luke i, 28.
Most fitting it was that the beautiful casket which enshrined the soul of Mary as a precious jewel should not be subjected to the dissolution of the grave. Therefore the blessed Mother of God was assumed, body and soul, to the realms of bliss, and exalted above all the angels and saints in the fullness and completeness of splendor and beauty.
Let us rejoice, then, on this glorious festival, and praise the Lord of hosts in company with the whole celestial choir. This is the day on which the Church invites her children to celebrate the Assumption of the Mother of God, and they accept the invitation with joy; for, in love and devotion to Mary, all true devoted Catholics find their greatest delight.
Now, if we are filled with consolation as often as we address to Mary the prayer, in which the Church has combined the salutations of the angel and of St. Elizabeth, together with an invocation of her own–“Ave Maria,” or “Hail Mary”–today these words must be replete with a special unction and sweetness; and therefore this salutation ascends, on this beautiful festival, from millions and millions of her faithful clients, like a sweet perfume to her glorious throne.
And if this salutation, already on earth, fills us with delight, how infinite will not our joy be when one day we shall greet the Holy Virgin with the same salutation in heaven, as children of God, redeemed by the precious Blood of her divine Son! The joy which the ransomed soul will feel in saluting the Mother of God with the “Ave Maria” in heaven shall be the subject of meditation on this beauteous festive day.
O Mary, accept our greeting here on earth in anticipation of that which we hope one day to offer before thy throne in heaven, and take us unto thy heart today and forever! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater glory of God!
We deem ourselves happy if we are permitted to salute persons of an exalted rank. Our hearts are glad if we can pay homage to the ruler of the country–be he King, Emperor, or President, as the case may be; and the measure of our joy would be full if we can salute the Pope himself. This feeling of joy becomes still more intense if the objects of our admiration be connected with us by bonds of relationship; if we love them; if we are in debted to them for many benefits, and hope to receive still greater favors from them in the future.
Children of Mary, endeavor to realize how great must be the rejoicings of a soul that, entering heaven, beholds Mary upon her celestial throne, and hastens to the embrace of that loving Mother! When Gabriel brought the message to Mary, he found the Virgin in solitude, pouring forth her soul in prayer to God in her humble little home at Nazareth; and, nevertheless, he saluted her with the most profound veneration.
The message which he brought to her gave him clearly to understand the Majesty and Dignity of the elected Virgin. And this is why we on earth already salute her with such veneration and joy, because we are well aware of her exalted dignity in the kingdom of God! This feeling grows more intense within us when it is our happy lot to visit those places where Mary is especially honored and praised; where many miracles have been performed through her gracious intercession, and where thousands at once salute the Mother of God. Remember Loretto, Lourdes, Einsiedel.
But what will be our joy when we, for the first time, salute this Virgin Mother with the “Ave Maria” in heaven, and behold her, for the first time, in that glory and majesty with which she was clothed by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost in heaven. What joy will be ours when we behold her in the irresistible charm of her numberless merits, as Mother of God, as Co-redemptrix of man, and as the heroic woman, who walked with Christ to the very foot of the cross!
How we will rejoice when we bow down before her as Queen of the Angels, whose prerogatives are all crowned in her; and, at the same time, behold blended in the majesty of the Queen of all Saints the glory of all Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors and of all ranks of the blessed! On all sides will be entoned anthems of praise, homage, admiration, and thanksgiving! Ah, yes, what consolation will it be for us to behold Mary one day, and salute her in this Majesty and Glory!
It is, indeed, true that already on earth we salute her as full of grace. But in what this fullness of grace precisely consists, we can not as yet realize; neither can we know on earth the perfection with which Mary corresponded with this plenitude of grace, and her consequent increase of merits, in respect to which Holy Scripture says of her: “Others have gathered riches, but you surpassed them all.”
But in heaven we shall clearly behold the ocean of graces which the Holy Trinity bestowed upon Mary; we shall see combined in her heart all the favors granted to men and angels, as the waters of all the streams are commingled in the sea.
“Full of grace!” in wondering admiration the child of God cries out to Mary in heaven. “The Lord is with thee!” thus spoke the Angel to Mary on earth. He was permitted to salute her thus on account of her intimate union with God by the plenitude of sanctifying grace which dwells within her, and which made her more pleasing to God than all the angels and saints.
“The Lord is with thee!” Thus do we salute Mary when we see her with the Infant Jesus in her arms; or think of her dwelling with Him in the house at Nazareth; or accompanying Him in His apostolic journeys, or standing beneath the cross. Now she sits enthroned in honor and glory, for her place in heaven is nearest that of her divine Son, Who shares with her His majesty, His beatitude, and joys to an extent that we shall understand only in heaven.
“The Lord is with thee!” Thus will we greet the Blessed Virgin when, after having safely passed through the trials and temptations of life, we are led, by our guardian angel, to her glorious throne. Yes, and when that happy day arrives, we may truly add: “He is with me also.” O Mother of fair love, behold I come to participate in the glory and beatitude which through you the King of heaven distributes to all the blessed!
What joy it is for us to meet those with whom God has connected us by the bonds of relationship, friendship, or love, especially if it be a fondly loved mother! Child of Mary, with what delight will you one day greet, in heaven, that tender Mother,–Mother of Jesus,–Mother of God! My Mother, all hail to you! There only will we know the depth of the maternal love which filled her heart for us–the heart of her to whom the Lord bequeathed us from the cross.
Concentrate the hearts of all mothers into one, it would be far from containing the love of Mary for each of the children of God. Never, until we have passed through the golden gates which lead to the mansions of eternal bliss, can we know the faithful and tender love with which she protects us in life, and intercedes for us with her divine Son that temptation may not be allowed to vanquish us. And when the wiles of the evil one succeed but too well, and we are so unhappy as to commit sin and offend God, it is Mary who pleads with her divine Son until she has obtained for us the grace of repentance and amendment of life.
It is Mary who preserves us from relapsing into sin, and gains for us every grace which the Lord designs for our sanctification, particularly the grace of final perseverance.
“Hail Mary!” Well may this cry ascend in heaven from the soul rescued from eternal death by her gracious prayers. To thee, O dearest Mother, I owe my beatitude and joy. Then what a happiness to behold thee here; to hasten to thy maternal arms; to love and enjoy with thee forever! When, mid the gathering shadows of the valley of tears, my cry went forth to thee: “Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death,” now in heaven I see how all the infinite attributes of God glorify themselves in thee, and, as in a mirror, reflect His mercy, longanimity, and sanctity; His majesty and glory; His beauty, beatitude, and love. I am now permitted to participate in this thy glory and delight.
O happiness beyond compare! “Whatever is mine, is thine,” is the acclamation which, coming from the blissful lips, re-echoes in my heart. Yes, Mary, Mother, I come to the refuge of thy maternal love, and embrace thee on thy throne in heaven. Ah, would that we were allowed to view, if but for an instant, that realm beyond the skies, and see how a soul, purified by the flames of purgatory, and released by the prayers of some faithful friend, now enters paradise, and receives the embrace of that loving mother, who welcomes her happy child in the realm of eternal beatitude.
Beloved in Christ, if you have lived as true children of Mary, you also will, at the hour of death, enjoy the bliss of a welcome from her. Therefore, salute her often and often with the angelic salutation; and, calling upon her here on earth, say to her: “Mary, pray for me now; obtain for me the grace that I, as thy true child, may follow thy example on earth, avoid sin, crush the head of the serpent, and imitate Jesus by living a holy life according to the state in which I have been placed.”
Today, therefore, when the homage of all her devoted children ascends like the sweetness of fragrant flowers to Mary, beg of her to obtain for you perseverance and fidelity unto your happy end; that you may one day expire in her arms and experience her assistance in purgatory, so that you may the more speedily be enabled to cry out in heaven: “Hail Mary! Mother! Now I am with you, and will forever remain with you!”
This consideration on the Angelic salutation, as it will one day be uttered by us in heaven, if we sink into the sleep of death as children of that Blessed Mother, will serve as a constant admonition to anticipate this salutation by repeating it on earth in a spirit of recollection, and with the whole ardor of our love and confidence in Mary, that it may always ascend as the sweet odor of our devotion to her, the Queen of heaven. Amen!
Lives of the Saints: Compiled from Authentic Sources with a Practical Instruction on the Life of Each Saint, for Every Day in the Year by Rev. F. X. Weninger. Permissu Superiorum. New York: P. O’Shea, Publisher, 67 Barclay Street and 42 Park Place. 1876.