Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, The Wide-Open Heart
August 15, 2021
Ana Cloughly, OSB, Sisters of Benet Hill Monastery, Colorado Springs, CO
Most of the time the Sunday liturgy takes precedence over any feast day that lands of a Sunday. This Sunday is different. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I fall short of saying that I am disappointed because we are missing a pivotal moment in the series of five weeks devoted to exploring the sixth chapter in the Gospel of John. I fall short of my disappointment because the feast of the Assumption of Mary is such a great opportunity to celebrate Mary’s life, her love for God and her unyielding trust in the saving power of God even to the moment of her death. I promise I will try to bring the portion of John’s gospel that we miss today together in next week’s reflection.
Many churches hold the belief that Mary, the mother of Jesus did not suffer the corruption of death. The Orthodox, Episcopal, Lutherine and the Catholic Church teach that the virgin Mary having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. This dogma is not scriptural and therefore makes our belief suspect with many more fundamentalist churches. This reflection is not about doctrinal differences but rather places of convergence.
In Give Us This Day, a monthly publication of daily readings, prayers and reflections published by Liturgical Press, I found a reflection on the Blessed Virgin Mary by Pope Benedict XVI. The pope quotes from the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great who said of St. Benedict, “the heart of St. Benedict expanded so much that all creation could enter it”. Benedict XVI suggests that this could be said about Mary’s heart as well. My spiritual imagination took off.
Our gospel from St. Luke today tells us that Mary went to stay with her cousin Elizabeth. At the moment of Mary’s greeting, St. John the Baptist “leapt” in Elizabeth’s womb. This moment (called the Visitation) has captured the spiritual imaginations of people for over two thousand years. It is a moment when the hearts of Elizabeth and John encountered the unbounded love of God in a way no one else would until years later. St. Luke says, “at the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’” From the dates offered in the gospels, Mary was about three months pregnant. She had time to think about the mystery of her life. Her response to Elizabeth’s greeting is called the Magnificat. Monastics recite this quote from Mary every evening, most often it is sung.
Today’s celebration is guided by the narrative of Elizabeth’s and Mary’s meeting but not limited to it. I’ve always had an idealistic perception of the nature of a mother’s heart. A mother carries her baby beneath her heart for nine months and in her heart for the rest of her life. No matter how many children a mother has, with each pregnancy her heart expands to encompass that new life. It is with this idea in mind that I read the quote from Pope Benedict XVI.
Mary carried the true presence of God in her womb, under her heart and in her heart for eternity. What does this say for us? Benedict XVI goes on to say in his reflection, “So what can be said them? A great heart, the presence of God in the world room for God within us and room for us in God.” Can you imagine? Close your eyes and let your heart open. Can you imagine your heart large enough to hold all of creation? Each of us has the potential. Like Mary, we have only to say yes.
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Sister Ana Cloughly is the Director of the Contemplative Vision Ministry at Benet Hill Monastery in Colorado Springs, CO. She facilitates courses in contemplative prayer practices and Christian mysticism, leads group retreats and is a Spiritual Director. She is a member of the planning committee for the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Federation of St. Scholastica.