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Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary 2012

Pope Benedict XVI's homily at Holy Mass on the Solemnity of the Assumption
St Thomas of Villanova Parish, Castel Gandolfo, Wednesday 15 August 2012 - also in French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On 1 November 1950, Venerable Pope Pius XII proclaimed as Dogma that the Virgin Mary “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory”. This truth of faith was known by Tradition, was affirmed by the Fathers of the Church, and was a particularly important aspect in the veneration of the Mother of Christ. Precisely this devotional element, so to speak, was the driving force behind the formulation of this Dogma. The Dogma appears as an act of praise and exaltation of the Holy Virgin. It also emerges from the text of the Apostolic Constitution, where it affirms that the Dogma is proclaimed for “the honour of her Son... for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church”. What was already celebrated in the veneration and devotion of the People of God as the highest and most permanent glorification of Mary was thus expressed in the form of a dogmas; the act of the proclamation of the Assumption was presented almost as a liturgy of faith. And in the Gospel which we have just heard, Mary herself prophetically pronounces a few words that orientate us in this perspective. She says: “For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed” (Lk 1:48). It is a prophecy for the whole history of the Church. These words of the Magnificat, recorded by St Luke, indicate that praising the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, intimately united to Christ her Son, regards the Church of all ages and of all places. The fact that the Evangelist noted these words presupposes that the glorification of Mary was already present in the time of St Luke and he considered it to be a duty and a commitment of the Christian community for all generations. Mary’s words tell us that it is a duty of the Church to remember the greatness of Our Lady for the faith. This Solemnity is an invitation to praise God, and to look upon the greatness of Our Lady, for we know who God is in the faces of those who belong to him.

But why is Mary glorified by her Assumption into Heaven? St Luke, as we have heard, sees the roots of the exaltation and praise of Mary in Elizabeth’s words: “Blessed is she who believed” (Lk 1:45). And the Magnificat, this canticle to God, alive and active in history is a hymn of faith and love, which springs from the heart of the Virgin. She lived with exemplary fidelity and kept in the inmost depths of her heart the words of God to his people, the promises he made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, making them the content of her prayer: the Word of God in the Magnificat became the word of Mary, the lamp for her journey, thus preparing her to receive even in her womb the Word of God made flesh. Today’s Gospel passage recalls this presence of God in history and in the unfolding of events; in particular, there is a reference to the Second Book of Samuel Chapter Six (6:1-15), in which David moves the Holy Ark of the Covenant. The comparison is clear to the Evangelist: Mary expecting the birth of her Son Jesus is the Holy Ark that contains the presence of God, a presence that is a source of consolation, of total joy. John, in fact, leaps in Elizabeth’s womb, just as David danced before the Ark. Mary is the “visit” of God that creates joy. Zechariah, in his song of praise says explicitly: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people” (Lk 1:68). The house of Zechariah experienced the visit of God by the unexpected birth of John the Baptist, but above all by the presence of Mary, who bore within her womb the Son of God.

But now let us ask ourselves: how does the Assumption of Mary help our journey? The first answer is: in the Assumption we see that in God there is room for man, God himself is the house with many rooms of which Jesus speaks (cf. Jn 14:2); God is man’s home, in God there is God’s space. And Mary, by uniting herself, united to God, does not distance herself from us. She does not go to an unknown galaxy, but whoever approaches God comes closer, for God is close to us all; and Mary, united to God, shares in the presence of God, is so close to us, to each one of us. There is a beautiful passage from St Gregory the Great on St Benedict that we can apply to Mary too. St Gregory the Great says that the heart of St Benedict expanded so much that all creation could enter it. This is even truer of Mary: Mary, totally united to God, has a heart so big that all creation can enter this heart, and the ex-votos in every part of the earth show it. Mary is close, she can hear us, she can help us, she is close to everyone of us. In God there is room for man and God is close, and Mary, united to God, is very close; she has a heart as great as the heart of God.

But there is also another aspect: in God not only is there room for man; in man there is room for God. This too we see in Mary, the Holy Ark who bears the presence of God. In us there is space for God and this presence of God in us, so important for bringing light to the world with all its sadness, with its problems. This presence is realized in the faith: in the faith we open the doors of our existence so that God may enter us, so that God can be the power that gives life and a path to our existence. In us there is room, let us open ourselves like Mary opened herself, saying: “Let your will be done, I am the servant of the Lord”. By opening ourselves to God, we lose nothing. On the contrary, our life becomes rich and great.

And so, faith and hope and love are combined. Today there is much discussion on a better world to be awaited: it would be our hope. If and when this better world comes, we do not know, I do not know. What is certain is that a world which distances itself from God does not become better but worse. Only God’s presence can guarantee a good world. Let us leave it at that.

One thing, one hope is certain: God expects us, waits for us, we do not go out into a void, we are expected. God is expecting us and on going to that other world we find the goodness of the Mother, we find our loved ones, we find eternal Love. God is waiting for us: this is our great joy and the great hope that is born from this Feast. Mary visits us, and she is the joy of our life and joy is hope.

What is there to say then? A great heart, the presence of God in the world, room for God within us and room for us in God, hope, being expected: this is the symphony of this Feast, the instruction that meditating on this Solemnity gives us. Mary is the dawn and the splendour of the Church triumphant; she is the consolation and the hope of people still on the journey, it says in today’s Preface. Let us entrust ourselves to her Motherly intercession, that she may obtain that he strengthen our faith in eternal life; may she help us to live the best way the time that God has given us with hope. May it be a Christian hope, that is not only nostalgia for Heaven, but a living and active desire for God who is here in the world, a desire for God that makes us tireless pilgrims, nourishing in us the courage and the power of faith, which at the same time is the courage and the power of love. Amen."

Papa Benedict's Words at the Angelus
- in Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Cari fratelli e sorelle,
Nel cuore del mese di agosto la Chiesa in Oriente e in Occidente celebra la Solennità dell’Assunzione di Maria Santissima al Cielo. Nella Chiesa Cattolica, il dogma dell’Assunzione – come sappiamo – fu proclamato durante l’Anno Santo del 1950 dal Venerabile Pio XII. La celebrazione, però, di questo mistero di Maria affonda le radici nella fede e nel culto dei primi secoli della Chiesa, per quella profonda devozione verso la Madre di Dio che è andata sviluppandosi progressivamente nella Comunità cristiana.

Già dalla fine del IV secolo e l’inizio del V, abbiamo testimonianze di vari autori che affermano come Maria sia nella gloria di Dio con tutta se stessa, anima e corpo, ma è nel VI secolo che a Gerusalemme, la festa della Madre di Dio, la Theotòkos, consolidatasi con il Concilio di Efeso del 431, cambiò volto e divenne la festa della dormizione, del passaggio, del transito, dell’assunzione di Maria, divenne cioè la celebrazione del momento in cui Maria uscì dalla scena di questo mondo glorificata in anima e corpo in Cielo, in Dio.

Per capire l’Assunzione dobbiamo guardare alla Pasqua, il grande Mistero della nostra Salvezza, che segna il passaggio di Gesù alla gloria del Padre attraverso la passione, la morte e la risurrezione. Maria, che ha generato il Figlio di Dio nella carne, è la creatura più inserita in questo mistero, redenta fin dal primo istante della sua vita, e associata in modo del tutto particolare alla passione e alla gloria del suo Figlio. L’Assunzione al Cielo di Maria è pertanto il mistero della Pasqua di Cristo pienamente realizzato in Lei. Ella è intimamente unita al suo Figlio risorto, vincitore del peccato e della morte, pienamente conformata a Lui. Ma l’Assunzione è una realtà che tocca anche noi, perché ci indica in modo luminoso il nostro destino, quello dell’umanità e della storia. In Maria, infatti, contempliamo quella realtà di gloria a cui è chiamato ciascuno di noi e tutta la Chiesa.

Il brano del Vangelo di san Luca che leggiamo nella liturgia di questa Solennità ci fa vedere il cammino che la Vergine di Nazaret ha percorso per essere nella gloria di Dio. E’ il racconto della visita di Maria ad Elisabetta (cfr Lc 1,39-56), in cui la Madonna è proclamata benedetta fra tutte le donne e beata perché ha creduto al compimento delle parole che le sono state dette dal Signore. E nel canto del «Magnificat» che eleva con gioia a Dio traspare la sua fede profonda. Ella si colloca tra i «poveri» e gli «umili», che non fanno affidamento sulle proprie forze, ma che si fidano di Dio, che fanno spazio alla sua azione capace di operare cose grandi proprio nella debolezza. Se l’Assunzione ci apre al futuro luminoso che ci aspetta, ci invita anche con forza ad affidarci di più a Dio, a seguire la sua Parola, a ricercare e compiere la sua volontà ogni giorno: è questa la via che ci rende «beati» nel nostro pellegrinaggio terreno e ci apre le porte del Cielo.

Cari fratelli e sorelle, il Concilio Ecumenico Vaticano II afferma: «Maria assunta in cielo, con la sua molteplice intercessione continua a ottenerci le grazie della salvezza eterna. Con la sua materna carità si prende cura dei fratelli del Figlio ancora peregrinanti e posti in mezzo a pericoli e affanni, fino a che non siano condotti nella patria beata» (Lumen gentium, 62). Invochiamo la Vergine Santa, sia la stella che guida i nostri passi all’incontro con il suo Figlio nel nostro cammino per giungere alla gloria del Cielo, alla gioia eterna."

After the Angelus

"Chers frères et sœurs ! En ce jour de la solennité de l’Assomption, j’accueille avec joie les pèlerins de langue française. Aujourd’hui, l’Église nous dit que la Vierge Marie a été élevée dans la gloire du Ciel, devenant ainsi pour l’humanité un signe d’espérance et de consolation. À la suite de Marie et en union avec les pèlerins présents dans les sanctuaires mariaux de par le monde, redisons au Seigneur notre émerveillement et notre joie pour tout ce qu’il ne cesse d’accomplir en nous, dans l’Église et dans le monde! Bonne fête à tous!

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer, including the groups from Nigeria, Ghana and Burkina Faso. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady. May the example and prayers of Mary, Queen of Heaven, inspire and sustain us on our pilgrimage of faith, that we may rejoice with her in the glory of the resurrection and the fulfilment of her Son’s promises. Upon you and your families I invoke the Lord’s abundant blessings!

Am heutigen Hochfest der Aufnahme Marias in den Himmel grüße ich von Herzen alle deutschsprachigen Pilger hier in Castel Gandolfo. Dieser Festtag ist nicht nur ein Bekenntnis zu Maria, sondern ein Bekenntnis zum Menschen und zur Herrlichkeit des Himmels, zu der der Mensch berufen ist. An Maria wird sichtbar, daß Gott den Menschen mit Leib und Seele erlösen und ihn ganz bei sich haben möchte. Ihre Aufnahme in den Himmel gibt uns Hoffnung und Zuversicht. Der Himmel ist nicht eine weit entfernte und unbekannte Zone des Universums; er gehört in die Geographie des Herzens. Er ist uns nahe, weil Gott uns nahe ist. Wo Gott ist, ist der Himmel. Und wir haben eine Mutter dort, die uns zusammen mit ihrem Sohn Jesus erwartet. Wir werden erwartet! Und sie tritt für uns ein – für uns –, damit auch wir den Weg dorthin finden. Von Herzen wünsche ich euch und euren Familien einen schönen und gesegneten Festtag!

Dirijo un saludo afectuoso a los fieles de lengua española aquí presentes, así como a los que siguen esta oración mariana a través de los medios de comunicación. En la fiesta de la Asunción de la Virgen María, contemplamos a la Madre de Dios participando con su cuerpo y alma en la gloria del cielo. En ella vemos ya realizada la plenitud de vida a la que todos estamos llamados. Que la certeza de su intercesión maternal sobre cada uno de nosotros fortalezca nuestra esperanza y acreciente nuestro amor. Que Dios os bendiga.

Saúdo cordialmente os fiéis brasileiros de Umuarama e Paranavaí e demais peregrinos de língua portuguesa, sobre cujos passos e compromissos cristãos imploro, pela intercessão da Virgem Mãe, as maiores bênçãos divinas. Deixai Cristo tomar posse da vossa vida, para serdes cada vez mais vida e presença de Cristo! Ide com Deus.

Witam obecnych tu Polaków. Dzisiaj pragnę pozdrowić także wszystkich, którzy pielgrzymują na Jasną Górę. Wniebowzięcie Matki Bożej przypomina nam, że celem naszej ziemskiej wędrówki jest niebo. Pielgrzymując uczmy się od Niepokalanej zawierzenia Bogu, pełnienia Jego woli i służby braciom. Prośmy Ją: do Syna swego nas prowadź, z Nim nas pojednaj, Synowi swemu nas polecaj, Jemu nas oddawaj. Z serca wam błogosławię.

Saluto infine con affetto i pellegrini italiani, in particolare i giovani di Nogarole Rocca, Bagnolo, Pradelle e Pozzo in Verona. Auguro di trascorrere nella serenità e nella fede questa solenne e popolare festa mariana."

BXVI - Wednesday, 15 August 2012 - Castel Gondolfo - © Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana