When I was growing up, my family prayed the Rosary every evening. This devotion was passed down to my mother from her mother and grandmother. The meditations we used came from a book entitled Rosary Novenas to Our Lady by Charles V. Lacey, and we recited them so many times that some of my siblings and I are able to recite them by memory. One of the mysteries I found especially captivating was the Assumption of Mary, which reads:
“O glorious Mother Mary, meditating on the Mystery of thy Assumption, when, consumed with the desire to be united with thy Divine Son in Heaven, thy soul departed from thy body and united itself to Him, Who, out of the excessive love He bore for thee, His Mother, whose virginal body was His first tabernacle, took that body into Heaven and there, amidst the acclaims of the Angels and Saints, reinfused into it thy soul.”
The high school I attended was previously called Mount Assumption Institute; on display there was a magnificent painting of Our Blessed Mother’s Assumption in to Heaven. One of my favorite stained glass windows also depicts a similar scene of the Virgin Mary, clothed with the sun, and the moon and angels beneath her feet—she who once bore the Savior of the world.
In these days of National Eucharistic Revival, it seems fitting that we should ponder Our Lady, the first tabernacle of Jesus. Awhile ago, I started reading a wonderful book entitled Awakening Love: An Ignatian Retreat with the Song of Songs by Father Gregory Cleveland, OMV. A passage focuses on Mother Mary as “Ark of the Covenant”:
“Luke shows us that Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit just as the Ark of the Covenant was overshadowed by the cloud of God’s presence (see Ex 40:34-35). As David danced before the Ark upon its return to Jerusalem, at the Visitation John the Baptist leaps in his mother’s womb at the presence of Mary, the Ark that carries Jesus. And as David cried out, ‘How can the ark of the Lord come into my care?’ (2 Sam 6:9), so Elizabeth exclaims, ‘And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?’ (Lk 1:43).” (106)
From the earliest centuries of the Church, Our Lady’s womb was described as the wedding chamber in which Heaven and earth were united. There is so much to contemplate in this revelation. It bears witness that life begins at conception and “the first to worship Jesus was John the unborn child.” (“Jesus Within You,” Danielle Rose) This same mystery occurs at every Mass, when Heaven touches down to earth on the altar hidden in the Sacred Host. In His great mercy, the Divine Bridegroom even comes to us in this most intimate way in Holy Communion. Like Mary, we are also called to carry Jesus to others and be so “consumed with the desire to be united” with Jesus that we too may be with Him body and soul in Heaven one day.
St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, whose feast is celebrated on the eve of the Assumption, was filled with a great love for the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady. He wrote of Eucharistic devotion,
“We wish to love the Lord Jesus with the heart of the Immaculate, receiving Him and thanking Him with Her acts; thus, even if we should neither feel nor understand it, in fact we will honor the Lord Jesus with Her heart, with Her acts; or to speak more exactly, it will be She who through us loves and praises Jesus. We are but Her instruments.”
During World War II, St. Maximilian fearlessly spoke out and wrote about the truth, despite the Nazi regime. He was arrested and taken to Auschwitz. During his imprisonment, St. Maximilian continued to share the light and love of Christ with those around him. When a prisoner escaped, the men were all rounded up and forced to stand beneath the sweltering sun for hours. Then, the commander “naturally selected” ten men for the starvation bunker. The last man began screaming, weeping, and pleading with the Nazi leader, “My poor wife! My poor children! How will they survive?” Watching the scene, St. Maximilian was inspired to step forward and offer his life in place of the prisoner. Learning that he was a Roman Catholic priest, the leader eagerly complied.
Days passed, St. Maximilian and the nine other men remained in the starvation bunker. St. Maximilian led the men in prayers and hymns to the Immaculata, which resounded from the barren cell. In the face of the cruelest death, St. Maximilian sang of the most wondrous life. The last to survive, he was finally killed by lethal injection and on the feast of the Assumption his remains were cremated. St. Maximilian exhorted his followers:
“We must constantly strengthen the love for the Immaculata in souls, tighten the bond of love that exists between her and souls, so that they may become one with her—become her herself; so that She herself may live and love (act) in them and through them. Just as she is of Jesus and of God, so each soul will become of Jesus and of God through her and in her, in a much more perfect way than either without her or not through her, if that were even possible.
“Then souls will love the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus as they have never loved Him before, because, like her, and in ways they have never experienced before, they will plunge into the mysteries of Love: the Cross and the Eucharist. Through her, God’s Love shall kindle the world, set it on fire, and lead to the ‘assumption’ of souls through Love.”
May we imitate Our Lady and be “consumed with the desire to be united” with Jesus—now in the Holy Eucharist and with Him forever in Heaven. These words are often used to describe the Blessed Mother: “Who is this that looks forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army with banners?” (Song of Songs 6:10) Like St. Maximilian may we consecrate ourselves to the Immaculata and serve in her “army.” By letting her love Jesus through us, we will help set the world ablaze with His love.