Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Fr. Pete Iorio
August 15, 2020 - 8:00 AM
Today let us reflect on death. It is something that when we experience it, makes us very afraid. It is something that is unknown to us. We haven’t experienced it. We are all here. It is something that when it does happen in our lives brings about great grief, sadness. We are surrounded in the world by rising numbers of death due to the coronavirus, and we can merely think that it does not apply to me. Death, in my experience, is something very personal and intimate. We see that today as we look at the end of Mary’s life with this feast of her assumption.
When I think of experiencing the death of a loved one, I think of just over three years ago, when my own mother suffered a massive stroke and four days later, in the hospital in Johnson City, surrounded by my dad and her four children and two chaplains, a couple who are from Africa originally, were praying us into that moment of her passing. This is something that those of us in the family who were there remember with great peace and comfort and hope, something that was so sudden and tragic turned into something so very beautiful. Others experience death in different ways, with a car wreck for example very painful, or a long suffering sickness where the caregiver gets exhausted and some people have told me that their lives have been transformed in that time of passing. So each experience is very personal, very intimate, very much filled with different emotions and belief.
A friend of mine, a former director of religious education in a parish where I was pastor, lives here in Tennessee, but her mother who lives in Florida contracted COVID 19 unexpectedly. Of course, it was a very difficult time, as you know, that she was unable to be with her mom at all. Her mom was totally isolated in her suffering and in her dying.
So today, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary indicates that we believe that at the end of her life, the BVM was taken body and soul into the fullness of heaven. We don’t have any details of her passing from this life in the Scriptures, but we do have our tradition. Perhaps she was surrounded by the Beloved Disciple and others. We just do not have those details.
The assumption, and I love this description by Bishop Bob Barron, is that it is not a journey through space as sometimes depicted in art with Mary being lifted up on a cloud with angels transporting her from earth to the heavenly realm. Heaven is a symbol for the transcendent, a manner of existence that lies beyond what we experience in the dimensions of space here and now. Mary, says Bishop Robert Barron, was translated into the totality of her being from this dimensional system to the higher one for which we use the word, “heaven.” It is not so much somewhere but somehow else. Also in the teaching of our church, heaven and earth are not totally separated. They are somehow woven together. People, some of you may have yourselves, had visions or connections to loved ones who have left this world and have experienced the fullness of heaven.
Mary helps us. She intercedes for us. And she prays for us. That is why I believe that one of our most important prayers as Catholic Christians is the Hail Mary and especially that last line. So let us pray together: Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. AMEN.