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Contents: Volume 2 - Assumption of Mary 2019

Vigil and Day

By Carol & Dennis Keller


 

MARY

the

Assumption

Vigil of Assumption of MaryAugust 14, 2019

1st Chronicles 15: 3-4 & 15-16 & 16: 1-2; Responsorial Psalm  132; 1st Corinthians 15:54-57; Gospel Acclamation  Luke 11:28; Luke 11:27-28


Assumption of Mary August 15, 2019

Revelation 11:19 & 12:1-6 &10; Responsorial Psalm 45; 1st Corinthians 15:20-27; Gospel Acclamation – “Mary is taken up to heaven; a chorus of angels rejoices;” Luke 1:39-56


 

Whenever there is an important day in life, we typically spend the evening

before getting ready for its celebration. Writers describe that time of

preparation as keeping vigil, a waiting for the dawning of the longed for

day. So also, in the religious world, on the most important days of

celebrations of faith, the Church creates liturgies of the Word that call

us to worship the evening prior to prepare for the celebration. Those

readings prepare us for the celebration of the day. They focus our attention on the experiences we’ve endured in the light of remembering a religious event. We seek to understand the importance of what we celebrate.  We have vigils for Christmas, for Easter, for Pentecost and for other important feasts. Those liturgies of the Word are distinct from the liturgy of the Word for the feast day. The vigil readings are preparation of mind and heart for the instruction and celebration of the mystery of God’s presence among us.

 

If those feast days carry such importance why have do we identify great feast days as “holy days of obligation?” Obligation!? Why obligation? If we understood the wonder of the event why would we need to be obligated to come together as a community?  If we needed to celebrate the truth of our faith to apply it to the moments of our living we’d not need the burden of sin, the obligation by decree to drive us to come together to celebrate.

 

Liturgy – liturgies of Word, of Eucharist, and of the other six sacraments

-- and its rituals are how we learn the contents of the gift of faith we’ve

been given. Those rituals give meaning to our living the Way of the Christ.

Those who study liturgy and its effects on character, thought, and action know the rituals are not empty mouthings of ancient words. Those without

faith think of those words and actions as a form of incantation, a magical

formula constructed to create change for good or for curse. A most

significant break-through in the post-enlightenment era is that those

gathered together for liturgy are engaged in learning. The enlightenment

moved us into the scientific method which allowed for the study and

understanding of the sciences, both physical and human. Some have claimed such scientific and technological thought has replaced any need for faith.  Those who accept the gift of faith discover within its energy a purpose and meaning for human life beyond what is evident by science.  Each who attends our gatherings bring with them the events, the trials, the achievements, the relationships that flourish or that tear us down. The two great parts of the Mass are the liturgy of the Word and the Eucharist. The Word instructs, enlightens, encourages and inspires us to live the life of God in the time of our life. The liturgy of the Eucharist is a thanksgiving to

God for the great gift of life itself and the wonder of work. We bring to the altar a bit of what we’ve accomplished. For the most part this is money. For some unable to bring the fruits of their labor, there remains the gift of life itself with its joys and sorrows. These gifts become, are consecrated into the Body and the Blood of the Christ. What we offer as individuals is returned to us assimilated into the Body of the Christ and becomes our nourishment. We become ONE with each other in that meal. We support each other, we join our efforts to the efforts of the Christ and in this way grow spiritually into a grand community that is the Body of the Christ Crucified and Risen. We must come together, or we become emaciated spiritually. We must eat the Bread and drink the Blood, or we become isolated, alone, forgotten, and become only a body alive in a world of competitors. The murderers most common are those who rob us of our spirit, of our faith, and of the spiritual relationship with the truth that is God.  Jesus tells us to be most concerned about those who would rob us of our faith and relationship with God and his people.

 

Prior to Vatican II, it was taught that the “obligation” of attendance at

weekly Mass and on Holy Days of “Obligation” could be satisfied if one came

into attendance before the Creed and stayed until after the distribution of

the Eucharist. Effectively, this canceled out the Liturgy of the Word as a

non-essential part of our worship. The Mass was a sacrifice that was

enacted by the priest standing in for a bishop. It was a mandatory ritual

that in some way made us holy by our mere attendance. In those days of

decline, it was the priest who “said” or “celebrated” the Mass. Those

gathered were spectators and encouraged to pray the rosary or recite

prayers from prayer books. It was private prayer. This encouragement only

individuals to isolation in their private devotions. Coming to a gathering

hall was an individual sacrifice that somehow insured entrance into

paradise where those so favored would gaze in rapt adoration for all

eternity.

 

With the Vatican II emphasis on the Mystical Body of the Christ the role of

the “pew” people were restored to their role in the early church. It was no longer a celebrant, an actor taking the place of the Christ, who celebrated Mass. It was the Presider leading the assembly in celebration. That worship was not only a matter of lifting one’s heart and mind to the underlying reality of all physical, psychological, social, economic, and spiritual truth. It was a practice of the truth itself. And in that practice the impact on individuals AND the community learned of the presence of Jesus, the Son of the Living God among us.

 

Unfortunately, as with all rituals, renewal is constantly necessary. It

becomes an easy slip to fall into a performance that gradually falls into

rote practice. It’s when we come together as a community of faith that we

find the necessary support, nourishment, encouragement, and energy to live

fully.

 

As we’ve learned over the past few Sundays, there are few things that last.

Wealth is lost or gained; those changes are often out of our control.

Health is lost and gained, even though we have advanced medical

understandings and practices. Relationships are gained and lost, often with

our failures and/or the failures of others to care about, love, and respect

the dignity and worth others.  What remains? St. Paul writes that what remains is love, charity. We learn about that AND we practice that in our gathered assembly of faith. From the one with the least faith to the one with the greatest, when we gather together, we rub shoulders, we find companionship, we discover that we are truly One Body. The Word leads us to places in the heart that affect the movements of our minds. Our sharing at

offertory provides the material for the nourishment, the encouragement, the energy to continue to live our faith in the world. In that living we change all things. We are not misled by the rantings of persons who have only the present day and its failures and achievements as the measure of their worth. Our worth comes from the Creator who has given us our uniqueness and the resulting diversity that is the strength of communities.

 

“Obligation”, my foot! Our attendance at these days of remembrance are the

food and nourishment for our faith. It is with that faith that we come to

understand the underpinnings of human life. We live more fully, more

confidently, and more peacefully.

 

What has this to do with Mary and the Feast of the Assumption? Let’s begin

with the readings for the Vigil. In the first reading we are told that

David gathered together all Israel in Jerusalem on the occasion of bringing

the Ark of the Covenant onto Mount Sion, the highest point in Jerusalem.

The Ark contained the tablets of the Law of Moses and other things. It was

to the Israel the very Presence of God among them. The Levites are those

charged with the responsibility of carrying the Ark and of composing and

chanting the songs of praise and remembrance in leadership of the People

Gathered in praise and thanksgiving for the great and mighty deeds of God

among them that formed them into a People – the People of God.  Mary in

carrying the Son of God/Son of Man in her womb is an Ark of the new

covenant. That Incarnation joined together the divine, the transcendent,

God with the humanity created by God that is a partial expression of what

God is.  Paul writing to the Corinthians shouts the wonder of mortality

being clothed with immortality. Humanity that was once merely passing flesh

is now more. The guilt and pain of what sin does to our human psyche has

been swallowed up in the victory of the God/Man. Death and sin that kills

the human spirit is now subject itself to death. The proof that sin is dead

is the Resurrection of the God/Man as a new Creation. The Gospel of this

Vigil sums up what Mary is to us. She is the first of the disciples, the

one who heard the Word of God and observed that Word’s message. She is the

quintessential disciple. As such Mary is our model, our instructress, and

the sign of our hope. It is in her Assumption that we see our very own

future. It has been from the earliest traditions of the Eastern Church that

the “Dormition of Mary,” the falling to sleep of Mary, is our future. That

tradition came to the Latin Church soon after the first centuries. That is

the feast we celebrate today. Mary is truly our role model. She is no

saccharine saint. She lived, she had joy, she had sorrow, and stored up the

events of the life of Jesus in her heart. She turned them over in her faith

and in her reason repeatedly, finding ever more understanding and relevance

to her own life. She witnessed his death but also his resurrection and

shared in the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. Certainly, we should come together to celebrate what God, who is mighty, has done for her. And for us who are encouraged and inspired by her example.

 

The readings for the feast day are filled with images to ponder. We should

listen carefully to the words. While the reading from Revelation is about

the Church, it is easily applied to Mary. It is a sign also for us that we

too bring forth the Christ in our daily living. We too must visit those in

need and anxious about the events of their lives. We too must assist and

share the faith we’ve been gifted with. We are community, we are people

gathered in faith. And in our celebrations together – what we identify as

the Mass – we grow first in Unity, then in Charity, then in Hope. And in

that Hope for a future we grow our faith. With the eyes of that faith we

see reality differently. We see God’s presence in each other. We bring that

presence to the world in much the same way that David brought the Ark of

the Covenant into Mount Sion where all would see and visit it. We become

“christophers”, Christ bearers, to the times and places of our living.

 

This is the day the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it!!

 

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

******************************************************

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