The image of Mary greeting Elizabeth is filled with meaning for us as the church celebrates the Assumption of Mary. So it is quite interesting that our reflections today turn to Mary’s “Magnificat.” Mary rejoices in the saving work of God, “scattering the proud...casting down the mighty from their thrones....” On the surface, it is the meeting of two cousins - just a friendly visit. But these two women have been favored by the Lord and filled with unexpected new life. It is the child in Elizabeth's womb who leaps at the approach of Mary carrying her hidden treasure.
And it is God Himself who uses this simple visitation to announce the unfolding of Salvation History.
In its earliest form, the feast of the Assumption focused on the paschal mystery as expressed in the death of Mary. This was done with the hope that belief in Mary's bodily Assumption into heaven would make belief in our own resurrection stronger and more effective. And while the spirit of today's feast focuses strongly on the bodily assumption of Mary, the readings for the vigil and for the day suggest a stronger focus on Mary's share in the paschal mystery, and on our own share in the same mystery.
Mary's life is one of innocence, patience, faith and love. It is good for us on this special feast to honor her with our prayers and to thank God for the gift of Mary, who nurtured her child, taught him and protected him. She was connected to him in many ways but especially in the fire of His love.
It was this fire of love that consumed Jesus, this fire that ignited His compassion, and kindled His mercy. It was this light and this intensity that touched sinners, that healed lepers, that cured blindness and deafness that ultimately invaded the tombs and raised the dead. It was this fire that blazed in His every word, His every action. We have all watched fires burn out. We have all seen the light of inspiration flicker and die. We have witnessed all sorts of crusades and movements that capture the spotlight for a short while, then disappear. The amazing thing about the fire that burned within Jesus is that it never dies! It never died within Mary, and it stayed with her even as she watched her Son die a most terrible death. And it was her innocent faith and quiet fidelity to Him that allowed her to become intimately connected to all of us in that same burning Love.
We should try to be more fully aware of the many ways that God continues to visit us, to touch us with a burning love, to announce good news to us. He comes in unexpected disguises, in strange circumstances, using unusual people and places. So often we do not recognize His visitation, His coming into our lives. We see only the surface, the obvious. And we miss the opportunity to leap for joy at the nearness of our God.
Mary's example is one of unprecedented faith, allowing her to say "your will, not mine, be done" - allowing her to be present to God, to herself and to each person who walked through her door and into her heart. This simple faith is something that we all need. You and I are not called to heroism. We are simply called to be the best we can be - a son or daughter, wife or husband, a neighbor, a friend. The way we live - what we say or do for one another reveals God's love and mercy for the world, and enables us to come to a new beginning - "a new beginning, first of all in our own lives, so that we can make a new beginning as a human family, loving, trusting and caring for each other all throughout this nation and throughout this globe of ours, the shared home of us all." (Fr. Basil Pennington)
The Assumption is a feast when we celebrate the gift of life - the life given to us by God, the life of God in us, and the way to be strong disciples of Jesus by following the example of Mary, the Mother of God. We see in her a model for our faith. We too give birth to Christ in our world. We are reminded that though Christ suffered, he has been kept safe by God to whom he has returned, and will come to bring us all to that place of protection and life.
Now, indeed, have salvation and power come. With Mary we too proclaim and rejoice in the greatness of the Lord.