Thursday, December 23, 2004

4th Glorious Mystery: Death of the Blessed Mother

Luke 1:46-55, Rev. 12:1

Source: prayer card issued by the Franciscan University Press, © 1988.

Coincidentally, the reading from Luke is assigned for Thursday in the fourth week of Advent (IOW, today) in the Daily Lectionary. Most of the readings I have put at the head of most of these meditations come from a pamphlet, The Healing Rosary of our Mother of Perpetual Help Prayer Companion, edited by Fr. Michael Barrett, C.Ss.R (© 1977 Angelus Media Publications). Another resource has been Scriptural Rosary (© 1961, Chrisitianica Center).

I must note that I consider these last two Glorious Mystery with alternate names. This Mystery is more commonly called the Assumption of Mary. As I understand it, the tradition is that Mary was bodily assumed into Heaven just as Jesus, and Ezekiel before him, were. To me, this suggests two things.

First, all this emphasis on the physical body being assumed into heaven (which we see elsewhere in Revelation) indicates that Christianity respects the human body. Although one could cite Paul to the contrary, all this bodily assumption clearly shows that heaven regards the human body as worthy.

Secondly, I get the sense of how important Mary must have been to the early church. They would have given her the same respect we give Coretta King today, at the very least. What little we know of Mary, mostly from Luke, leads me to believe she was forceful and spiritual.

So – beyond being the Theotokos (Mother of God) – it’s easy to understand how attributes of various "pagan" goddesses were projected onto Mary as time went on. The early church also saw hints of her nature in the Song of Songs; for them, she was the Rose of Sharon. It is for this reason that roses were associated with her, and this connection explains the derivation of the name "rosary" for this series of prayers.

As I meditate on this, the penultimate scene in this cycle, I picture an Orthodox icon. At the center, on a raised bier, is Mary’s corpse. She is mostly wrapped, as in swaddling cloths, but one can still see her aged face. The disciples are gathered around behind her, in a semi-circle. At the center of this circle is the risen Christ. He is holding out his hands, as if accepting an offering. And offering over his hands is Mary’s soul, represented as a baby in a halo.

I have spoken of how the early church saw Mary, but how do I see her? Ultimately, I project onto Mary my notion of the perfect mother. I hope to explore this in more detail in the final installment in this series, tomorrow.

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