Today, August 15th, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Normally it would be a Holy Day of Obligation but since it falls on a Saturday this year, it is not a day of obligation, but it is still an important day.
The gospel reading for today is the story of the Visitation as told in Luke 1:39-56. As Mary learns of her own pregnancy she also learns that Elizabeth is pregnant and she goes to share her joy.
This all happens right after the Annunciation (Luke 1:28-38) when the Angel Gabriel appears to Mary to tell her she is to be the mother of Jesus. Mary says “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word.” This is the gospel reading used on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
The Immaculate Conception marks the beginning of Mary’s life on Earth as she is conceived in her mother’s womb. Because God knew she would say yes to being the mother of Jesus, God saw that she was conceived without sin. That is the beginning on Mary’s life on Earth. Today we celebrate the Assumption of Mary that comes at the end of her earthly life. When it came time for her to pass from this world, Jesus immediately assumed her into Heaven. He did this for Mary as his mother but also for her example of what it means to be disciple.
The second half of the gospel reading for today for today is known as the Magnificat. It is Mary’s prayer of praise given in response to Elizabeth words of praise. Mary starts off, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” Viewed in isolation this sentence might seem boastful but we need to understand it in response to what Elizabeth has said. Mary is acknowledging that her soul shines forth with the presence of Jesus in her woman but then she goes onto say that it is because God has looked on her, His lowly servant, with favor and blessed her.
Mary does not end with how God has blessed her. She goes on to say how God has blessed all His people, showing the strength of his arm,… he has lifted up the lowly, he has come to the help of his servant Israel.”
Mary recognizes the great things God has done for her and for all people and so she praises Him. Do we recognize God as the source of our blessings and do we respond in praise and thanksgiving?