Lift Up Your Hearts
A Reflection on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Call: Lift up your hearts! The people: We lift them up to the Lord.
The Call: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God! The people: It is right and just.
With these words we enter into the sacred celebration of the Eucharist. We take our hearts and lift them as high, as we humanly can, to draw closer to God. We give thanks to God for His reaching down in Holy Mass and lifting us up to heaven. We hear in the Liturgy that it is “right and just,” “our duty,” and we rightly thank God at that very moment for the Lord has come, and is coming, in order to lift us up to heaven.
Today, we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We celebrate the Mother of God being assumed, lifted up, into heaven. The Second Vatican Council in the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church declares that,
“The Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all guilt of original sin, on the completion of her earthly sojourn, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen of the universe, that she might be more fully conformed to her Son...” (LG 59)
The celebration of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary should cause every Christian to explode with joy. For this, “Lifting up,” is our destiny as well. Today’s feast obliges us to lift our gaze to Heaven, to our eternal home. Every reading today is a reminder of this lifting up to the Lord.
The Book of Revelation is also called the Apocalypse of St John based on the first verse of the Book. Apokalypsis, in Greek, means the lifting of the veil, a revelation. St John’s vision allows the faithful to see beyond earthly physicality in order to gaze into eternity. So, the Book of Revelation is not just a prediction of the future but simultaneously, a look at what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen.
Today, in the first reading from the Book of Revelation we hear of the Woman “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” The Fathers of the Church have consistently viewed this as a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the embodiment of the Church. This woman is with Child who born into the world is “destined to rule all the nations.” (Revelation 12:5) He is the Christ, Jesus. This Child is also the Word proclaimed and incarnate whom the Church announces and gives birth to every day. The Huge Red Dragon is the Devil or the Satan (Revelation 12:9), not some concept, but a dangerous reality. Obviously, the devil would like nothing more than to devour the Child, our Lord, and destroy the Woman, His mother, and the Church. Yet, the child is caught up to heaven by God. The Greek for, “caught up,” is ἁρπάζω (harpazō), to seize, hastily snatch up (Strong GK #726). Our Lord, during His brief time on earth, was constantly threatened and eventually crucified. The Huge Red Dragon must have rejoiced at the Lord’s crucifixion and death, but it was not to be for long. Jesus is risen and ascended to heaven and as we hear in the first reading, “Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed One.” (Revelation 12:10) Jesus is “lifted up”, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep,” (1 Corinthians 15:20) as we must also be, “lifted up.”
The woman from the Book of Revelation flees for a time into the wilderness, the world, to “a place prepared by God,” (Revelation 12:6). Today, we celebrate the “lifting up” of the Blessed Virgin Mary from that wilderness such that she stands with her Son, our Lord, in Heaven. This is our destiny! Today’s solemnity impels us to lift our hearts to heaven and give thanks. This is not to a heaven consisting of abstract ideas, but the reality which is God himself. God is Heaven. He is our destination and the eternal dwelling place from which we come, and for which we are striving.
So, how do we lift our hearts to meet the Lord and do what is “right and just?” The Gospel today gives us some clues.
First, there is an urgency to proclaiming the Good News of Salvation. Despite her youth, Mary does not stand around and wait. She does not take months in preparation to ensure nothing goes wrong. She does not hesitate for fear of what others may say or even if she will be rejected. She travels with haste. There is an urgency to bringing the Good News of Salvation that every Christian must adopt. Though scary, we cannot cower in fear of the Huge Red Dragon and his minions. God is with us. Let us announce the Gospel! In this, we are “lifted up.”
Second, like Mary, believe and then proclaim that belief. We hear in the Gospel,
“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:42, 46-47)
In faith, we understand that our death is not the end but rather the entrance into life that knows no death. In this knowledge we place our trust completely in God, not knowing on what path He will take us, but with a firm belief that at the end of a twisting and turning road, is heaven.
In faith, like Mary, we proclaim and lift up God’s greatness. Our small soul magnifies the Lord, making Him larger in the world. Think about your favorite Saint or even some person you have come to know in the world whose every action makes the Lord real, larger, in our eyes. That is what Mary is telling us in her Magnificat.
Third we approach our task in a state of humility. Mary tells us; that God, “has lifted up the lowly.” The word, humility, literally means close to the ground. It comes from the Latin word, humus, which means “ground” or “earth.” It expresses a lowly nature that is steady and supportive. Mary tells us that to be lifted up, one must first bow down in humility.
Today, we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a beacon of hope for us. For that same love that our Lord bears for His Mother, He bears for us. In a culture so obsessed with the body and yet so abusive of it, this feast speaks of the holiness of the body and God’s pledge to raise us, body and soul, in Christ. We can look into the darkness of the tomb and never fear the terrors of the night. St Paul writes to the Corinthians,
For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; … The last enemy to be destroyed is death, for “he subjected everything under his feet.” (1 Corinthians 15:22–23,26)
Today, as you lift your heart to heaven, in anticipation of the Eucharist, do so with a sense of urgency, a sincere faith, a strong voice, and a humble heart. Know that our Lord is coming to enter into us and so, lift us to heaven. Give Thanks! Rejoice! It is right and just; it is our duty always and everywhere!
New American Bible. Revised Edition. Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.
The Roman Missal: Renewed by Decree of the Most Holy Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, Promulgated by Authority of Pope Paul VI and Revised at the Direction of Pope John Paul II. Third Typical Edition. Washington D.C.: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.
Vatican Council II. “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.