Bookmark and Share

Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary 2009

Pope Benedict XVI's homily at Holy Mass on the Solemnity of the Assumption
St Thomas of Villanova Parish, Castel Gandolfo, Saturday 15 August 2009 - also in French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today's Solemnity crowns the series of important liturgical celebrations in which we are called to contemplate the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the history of salvation. Indeed, the Immaculate Conception, the Annunciation, the Divine Motherhood and the Assumption are the fundamental, interconnected milestones with which the Church exalts and praises the glorious destiny of the Mother of God, but in which we can also read our history. The mystery of Mary's conception recalls the first page of the human event, pointing out to us that in the divine plan of creation man was to have had the purity and beauty of the Virgin Immaculate. This plan, jeopardized but not destroyed by sin, through the Incarnation of the Son of God, proclaimed and brought into being in Mary, was recomposed and restored to the free acceptance of the human being in faith. Lastly, in Mary's Assumption, we contemplate what we ourselves are called to attain in the following of Christ the Lord and in obedience to his word, at the end of our pathway on earth.

The last stage of the Mother of God's earthly pilgrimage invites us to look at the manner in which she journeyed on toward the goal of glorious eternity.

In the Gospel passage just proclaimed, St Luke tells that, after the Angel's announcement, Mary "arose and went with haste into the hill country", to visit Elizabeth (Lk 1: 39). With these words the Evangelist wishes to emphasize that for Mary to follow her own vocation in docility to God's Spirit, who has brought about within her the Incarnation of the Word, means taking a new road and immediately setting out from home, allowing herself to be led on a journey by God alone. St Ambrose, commenting on Mary's "haste", says: "the grace of the Holy Spirit admits of no delay" (Expos. Evang. sec. Lucam, II, 19: PL 15, 1560). Our Lady's life is guided by Another: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Lk 1: 38); it is modelled by the Holy Spirit, it is marked by events and encounters, such as that with Elizabeth, but above all by her very special relationship with her Son Jesus. It is a journey on which Mary, cherishing and pondering in her heart the events of her own life, perceives in them ever more profoundly the mysterious design of God the Father for the salvation of the world.

Then, by following Jesus from Bethlehem to exile in Egypt, in both his hidden and his public life and even to the foot of the Cross, Mary lives her constant ascent to God in the spirit of the Magnificat, fully adhering to God's plan of love, even in moments of darkness and suffering, and nourishing in her heart total abandonment in the Lord's hands in order to be a paradigm for the faithful of the Church (cf. Lumen Gentium, nn. 64-65).

The whole of life is an ascent, the whole of life is meditation, obedience, trust and hope, even in darkness; and the whole of life is marked by this "holy haste" which knows that God always has priority and nothing else must create haste in our existence.

And, lastly, the Assumption reminds us that Mary's life, like that of every Christian, is a journey of following, following Jesus, a journey that has a very precise destination, a future already marked out: the definitive victory over sin and death and full communion with God, because as Paul says in his Letter to the Ephesians the Father "raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2: 6). This means that with Baptism we have already fundamentally been raised and are seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, but we must physically attain what was previously begun and brought about in Baptism. In us, union with Christ resurrection is incomplete, but for the Virgin Mary it is complete, despite the journey that Our Lady also had to make. She has entered into the fullness of union with God, with her Son, she draws us onwards and accompanies us on our pathway.

In Mary taken up into Heaven we therefore contemplate the One who, through a unique privilege, was granted to share with her soul and her body in Christ's definitive victory over death. "When her earthly life was over", the Second Vatican Council says, the Immaculate Virgin "was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory... and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords (cf. Rv 19: 16) and conqueror of sin and death" (Lumen Gentium, n. 59). In the Virgin taken up into Heaven we contemplate the crowning of her faith, of that journey of faith which she points out to the Church and to each one of us: the One who, at every moment, welcomed the Word of God, is taken up into Heaven, in other words she herself is received by the Son in the "dwelling place" which he prepared for us with his death and resurrection (cf. Jn 14: 2-3).

Man's life on earth - as the first reading reminded us - is a pathway that takes place, constantly, in the intense struggle between the dragon and the woman, between good and evil. This is the plight of human history: it is like a voyage on a sea, often dark and stormy. Mary is the Star that guides us towards her Son Jesus, "the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history" (cf. Spe Salvi, n. 49) and gives us the hope we need: the hope that we can win, that God has won and that, with Baptism we entered into this victory. We do not succumb definitively: God helps us, he guides us. This is our hope: this presence of the Lord within us that becomes visible in Mary taken up into Heaven. "The Virgin" in a little while we shall read in the Preface for this Solemnity "that you made to shine out as "a sign of hope and comfort for your people on their pilgrim way'".

With St Bernard, a mystic who sang the Blessed Virgin's praises, let us thus invoke her: "We pray you, O Blessed One, for the grace that you found, for those prerogatives that you deserved, for the Mercy you bore, obtain that the One who for your sake deigned to share in our wretchedness and infirmity, through your prayers may make us share in his graces, in his bliss and in his eternal glory, Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who is above all things, Blessed God for ever and ever. Amen" (Sermo 2 "de Adventu", 5: PL 183, 43)."

Papa Benedetto XVI's words at the Angelus
Courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Saturday 15 August 2009 - also in Croatian, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the heart of the month of August, a holiday period for many families and also for me, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. This is a privileged opportunity to meditate on the ultimate meaning of our existence, helped by today's Liturgy which invites us to live in this world oriented to eternal happiness in order to share in the same glory as Mary, the same joy as our Mother (cf Opening Prayer). Let us, therefore, turn our gaze to Our Lady, Star of Hope, who illumines us on our earthly journey, and follow the example of the Saints who turned to her in every circumstance. You know that we are celebrating the Year for Priests in remembrance of the Holy Curé d'Ars, and I would like to draw from the thoughts and testimonies of this holy country parish priest some ideas for reflection that will be able to help all of us especially us priests to strengthen our love and veneration for the Most Holy Virgin.

His biographers claim that St John Mary Vianney spoke to Our Lady with devotion and, at the same time, with trust and spontaneity. "The Blessed Virgin", he used to say, "is immaculate and adorned with all the virtues that make her so beautiful and pleasing to the Blessed Trinity" (B. Nodet, Il pensiero e l'anima del Curato d'Ars, Turin 1967, p. 303). And further: "The heart of this good Mother is nothing but love and mercy, all she wants is to see us happy. To be heard, it suffices to address oneself to her" (ibid., p. 307). The priest's zeal shines through these words. Motivated by apostolic longing, he rejoiced in speaking to his faithful of Mary and never tired of doing so. He could even present a difficult mystery like today's, that of the Assumption, with effective images, such as, for example: "Man was created for Heaven. The devil broke the ladder that led to it. Our Lord, with his Passion, made another.... The Virgin Most Holy stands at the top of the ladder and holds it steady with both hands" (ibid.).

The Holy Curé d'Ars was attracted above all by Mary's beauty, a beauty that coincides with her being Immaculate, the only creature to have been conceived without a shadow of sin. "The Blessed Virgin", he said, "is that beautiful Creature who never displeased the good Lord" (ibid. p. 306). As a good and faithful pastor, he first of all set an example also in this filial love for the Mother of Jesus by whom he felt drawn toward Heaven. "Were I not to go to Heaven", he exclaimed, "how sorry I should be! I should never see the Blessed Virgin, this most beautiful creature!" (ibid., p. 309). Moreover, on several occasions he consecrated his parish to Our Lady, recommending that mothers in particular do the same, every morning, with their children. Dear brothers and sisters, let us make our own the sentiments of the Holy Curé d'Ars. And with his same faith let us turn to Mary, taken up into Heaven, in a special way entrusting to her the priests of the whole world."

After the Angelus:

"En ce jour de l’Assomption, j’accueille avec joie les pèlerins de langue française venus à Castel Gangolfo pour la prière de l’Angélus. Au cœur de ce mois d’août, qui pour beaucoup est un temps de repos, l’Église nous donne de célébrer la gloire sans pareille de la Vierge Marie. Humble servante du Seigneur elle a été associée dans son corps à la résurrection de son fils Jésus, devenant pour toute l’humanité un gage d’espérance. En contemplant Marie, je vous invite à vous ouvrir comme elle à la confiance et à vous abandonner à la tendresse et à la fidélité de Dieu. Que la Vierge Marie veille sur l’Église et sur toutes les familles !

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors gathered here at Castel Gandolfo and also in Saint Peter’s Square. As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, we are invited to raise our eyes to heaven and contemplate Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother. She who on earth believed in God’s word is now glorified in body and soul. May Mary’s intercession and example guide you always and renew your hearts in faith and hope. May God grant you and your families abundant blessings of peace and joy!

Zum Hochfest Mariä Himmelfahrt heiße ich ganz herzlich die Pilger und Besucher deutscher Sprache willkommen. Die Kirche stellt uns Maria als den Menschen vor Augen, der ganz offen ist für den göttlichen Ruf, vorbehaltlos Ja sagt zu Gottes Willen und deshalb Heil und Segen für die Menschen wird. Die Kunst stellt uns Maria oft als die Betende vor, die in der Zwiesprache mit Gott die Botschaft des Engels annimmt. Eine solche Haltung sollte auch unser Gebet auszeichnen, nämlich die Offenheit für die Gegenwart des lebendigen Herrn, um das Geschenk seiner Güte zu empfangen und weiterzugeben. Euch allen wünsche ich einen gesegneten Festtag!

Saludo con afecto a los peregrinos de lengua española. La Iglesia celebra hoy la Solemnidad de la Asunción de la Virgen María. Con esta fiesta los cristianos reconocemos agradecidos la especial complacencia que Dios tiene hacia la Madre de su Hijo, que en este día la vemos coronada de gloria y esplendor. Pidamos, por la poderosa intercesión de la Santísima Virgen, poder vivir en todo momento apoyados en la gracia y alcanzar como ella el premio de la gloria celeste. Muchas gracias.

Saúdo os peregrinos de língua portuguesa, a quem agradeço a presença e a união na oração do “Angelus”, neste dia de Nossa Senhora da Assunção. Ela aponta-nos a meta do Céu, ensinando-nos que o destino do homem não se esgota no tempo, mas completa-se na Vida Eterna, junto de Deus. Esta mensagem encha os vossos corações de alegria e de esperança que vos desejo com a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Witam obecnych tu w Castel Gandolfo Polaków. Szczególnie pozdrawiam wiernych zgromadzonych na Jasnej Górze i w sanktuariach maryjnych w Polsce. Uroczystość Wniebowzięcia Matki Bożej przypomina nam, że niebo jest naszą ojczyzną. Tam jest cel naszej ziemskiej wędrówki. Niech ta Uroczystość będzie dla was okazją, by w duchu wiary Ojców raz jeszcze odnowić swoje osobiste zawierzenie, jak również rodzin i całego Narodu, Niepokalanej Matce.

Saluto, infine, i pellegrini italiani. In particolare i fedeli della parrocchia di San Martino, in Cenate Sotto e quelli della parrocchia dei Santi Giovanni Battista ed Irene, in Veglie. Saluto altresì i rappresentanti dell’Opera di Nazaret. A tutti auguro una buona festa dell’Assunta!"