Tag Archives: assumption of Mary

Beyond Wonder Woman

Our Lady of China. Original painting by Lu Hung-Nien. Photo by GMC.

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Ancient Chinese folklore abounds with legends of flying sages and immortals. The gravity-defying love of Jesus and Mary has a natural appeal for the Asian mind. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen found that he could connect with Chinese people via the Assumption. In his book about the Blessed Virgin Mary, The World’s First Love (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1952, pp. 136-137), Sheen wrote:

Love in its nature is an Ascension in Christ and an Assumption in Mary. So closely are Love and the Assumption related that a few years ago the writer, when instructing a Chinese lady, found that the one truth in Christianity which was easiest for her to believe was the Assumption. She personally knew a saintly soul who lived on a mat in the woods, whom thousands of people visited to receive her blessing. One day, according to the belief of all who knew the saint, she was “assumed” into heaven. The explanation the convert from Confucianism gave was: “Her love was so great that her body followed her soul.” One thing is certain: the Assumption is easy to understand if one loves God deeply, but it is hard to understand if one loves not. 

Our Lady of China, featured above, first appeared in Donglu, China in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion. A militia of naïve martial artists, unacquainted with Western technology and weaponry, believed that their bodies were immune to bullets due to their secret kung fu techniques and spiritual exercises. Calling themselves the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists (I-ho-ch’uan or Yihequan), they set out to liberate their country from foreign influence using their acrobatic techniques, swords and a few rifles. In their eyes, the Christian missionaries and churches were destroying Chinese culture and converting family members away from their traditions. Chinese Christians were considered traitors.

It was like a showdown between Kung Fu Panda, Tigress, Monkey, Mantis, and Crane and the Eight Nation Alliance banded against them. The Empress Dowager Cixi also dispatched the Qing Imperial Army to assist the Boxers.

In Donglu, a weapon more powerful than rifles or cannons was deployed: prayer to Our Lady for her intercession. In response to the prayers of Father Wu, the pastor of the village, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared in the sky in radiant light, alarming the combatants. Shots fired at the apparition were futile. Another apparition believed to be St. Michael the Archangel then swooped down and chased the soldiers away. A village of up to 1000 Christians founded by the Vincentian Fathers was saved by the Heavenly Lady and St. Michael.

Mary’s Assumption outdreamed the dreams of the Boxers, Superman, Wonder Woman and all humanity by her physical immortality, divinization, and flight into heaven. Jesus and Mary are now truly impervious to bullets in their transfigured bodies, can fly through walls, do aerial 360s, and leap over trees and mountains faster than the speed of light. 

Better than anti-gravity, Divine Love pulls the earth—space, time, matter, energy and mind—into the vortex of the whirling Trinity.

O Immaculate Virgin Mary, Queen assumed into heaven, pray for us!

-GMC

References:

Foundation Mary Pages
China’s Boxer Rebellion in Photos

St. Teresa Benedicta and St. Maximilian Kolbe

Maximilian Kolbe
Teresa Benedicta

A number of martyrs are remembered in our liturgy this week, August 9, we remember Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, who died in the concentration camp at Auschwitz on today in 1942.

August 10th, we remember Lawrence the Deacon, one of the most important martyrs of the early church.

we remember Maximillian Kolbe, a Polish Franciscan priest, who also died in Auschwitz about a year before Edith Stein, August 14, 1941.

Peter Brown, an historian of early Christianity, says it wasn’t the bravery of Christian martyrs that impressed the Romans. The Romans were a macho people; war was in their blood. They prided themselves on dying bravely.

What the Romans marveled at was how Christian martyrs approached death. They had other values. They saw themselves as citizens of another world, who followed Jesus Christ in how they lived. They believed in his promise of everlasting life.

Lawrence the deacon, for example, could have escaped Roman persecution, but he wouldn’t abandon the poor in his care. Jesus said take care of the poor.

Centuries later, Maximillian Kolbe was a priest who wouldn’t abandon the vocation God gave him.

Before World War II, Kolbe was active as a Franciscan priest, promoting devotion to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. He ran a large, successful Franciscan printing enterprise in Warsaw.

In 1939, after invading Poland, the Nazi arrested him and a number of other Franciscans and imprisoned them for some months. They ransacked their printing place, probably hoping to intimidate them. Then, they left them go.

Instead of being intimidated, Kolbe began to house refugees from the Nazis, some of them Jews. That got him into trouble, so he was arrested again, on February 14th, 1941, and sent to Auschwitz to do hard labor.

Concentration camps like Auschwitz where Maximillian Kolbe and Sr.Teresa Benedicta died are the nearest thing to Calvary in modern times. More than 1500 of them were spread mostly through German occupied territories in Europe. Twenty million people died in the camps in the Second World War, 6 million were Jews. 1.3 million people went to Auschwitz; 1,1 million died there.

Five months after Kolbe entered Auschwitz, in July 1941, a prisoner from his barracks escaped. In reprisal, the Nazis took 10 men from the barracks to put them to death by starvation. One of them cried out that he had a wife and children who would never see him again. Father Kolbe stepped forward and offered to take the man’s place.

He was the last of the ten men to die of starvation and an injection of carbolic acid two weeks later, on August 14, 1941.

Many stories of Kolbe’s ministry among the prisoners in Auschwitz were told after his death when Auschwitz was liberated. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 19, 1983, who called him “Patron Saint of Our Difficult Age.”

He was a sign of God’s love in a place where God seemed absent.

Maximillian Kolbe’s death on the vigil of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven has been seen as a further sign. God’s hand reached into the dark horror of Calvary to save his Son. God reached out to Mary to bring her, body and soul, to heaven. God reached into Auschwitz and other camps of horror to bring suffering human beings to glory and peace.

The Queenship of Mary

800px-Fra_Angelico_038

“Christians live from feast to feast,” St. Athanasius said. The church’s feasts are linked to each other; all are linked to the great feast of the Resurrection of Jesus.

The Assumption of Mary into Heaven, August 14, leads to the Feast of the Queenship of Mary, August 22, a feast introduced into the liturgy of the Roman Catholic church in 1955 to celebrate the privileged place of Mary in heaven. She “was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory when her earthly life was over, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things.” (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium 59)

Royal titles were commonly given to God and those anointed by God in the Old Testament; Christianity continued the pratice, giving royal titles to Jesus and Mary. She is called queen in traditional Christian prayers like the Hail Holy Queen and Queen of Heaven:

“Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To you do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in the valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, your eyes of mercy towards us, and after this our exile, show to us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Those called a queen, Mary on her part knows her greatness is from her Lord, as she acknowledges in her Magnificat:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior. He who is mighty has done great things to me; holy is his name.” ( Luke 1:46-55)

Fra Angelico captures Mary’s humility in his portrayal of her (above), bowing before her Son. Honors given to her are a reflection of the graces promised to humanity.

“Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.”

Hope in the Resurrection

Ascent of Elijah (Northern Russian icon, ca. 1290)

11th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday

Sirach 48:1-14, Matthew 6:7-15

According to statistics, the mortality rate is 100%. Four exceptions to this rule are recorded in salvation history:

Seven generations after Adam, Scripture records that “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). 

The prophet Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind with a flaming chariot and horses (2 Kings:11).

Death could not hold the Lord Jesus Christ, who rose on the third day after his crucifixion and ascended into heaven forty days later.

Traditions East and West affirm that the Blessed Virgin Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven. (The East believes she “slept” peacefully before being assumed; the West believes she did not die.)

Enoch interrupted the downward spiral after Adam’s expulsion as a ray of hope piercing the darkness. Once a pattern sets in, human consciousness begins to accept it as normal and “natural.” However, “God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living” (Wisdom 1:13). As long as there is one exception to a rule, the rule is not absolute. 

Enoch and Elijah kept alive in human consciousness the possibility of bodily resurrection, foreshadowing by their mysterious translations the resurrection of Christ and the assumption of Mary. The Sadducees, the high priestly class, had already given up hope in the resurrection, effectively nullifying the witness of Enoch in the first book of the Pentateuch which they revered. The flame of hope is so easily snuffed out in a fragile humanity grown old.

It takes the heart of a child to believe in Jesus’ promise of eternal life: “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). 

In praying the Our Father today, we may contemplate Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Saints Enoch and Elijah in whom his will was done “on earth as it is in heaven.” The curtain separating heaven and earth was torn in two on the Cross, and the transfiguring Light of the Trinity shines everywhere. May we be granted eyes to see it. 

-GMC