Thursday, 15 August 2019

Sainte-Marie des Deux-Montagnes: Assumption Homily

The following homily was given at the Latin Missa Cantata for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Abbey Church on August 15, 2019. 

Initially given in English by Fr. John Hodgins, the text was translated into French  for the community which now includes both French and English speaking postulants.  

The homily was translated by Dom Charles Gilman O.S.B., the Abbey Chaplain, and was repeated in French at Mass for the bi-lingual congregation which includes local people who attend the Novus Ordo Latin Mass at Ste-Marie daily.

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary 

Abbaye Sainte-Marie des Deux-Montagnes, Quebec, August 15, 2019

“And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?”  Luke 1 

This is the quizzical but hopeful greeting of our Blessed Mother by Elizabeth, her kinswoman. Blessed Mary has come to visit members of her family, Elizabeth and Zechariah, an older couple, who are sharing the joy of expecting a first child.  

Down the ages, expectant Christian mothers are moved by these words about our Blessed Mother, Mary, the chosen vessel for our hope and salvation. Elizabeth’s words are in the form of a question: “Why has the Mother of the Lord come to visit us?”  

This is not simply a query, it is a proclamation, a declaration of underlying hope: words of expectancy in a world of contingency and apprehension, words of faith in the power of God’s love coming to us in the person of the mother of our Lord and in the loving, saving potential of the divine Child she is carrying.

It is in this context of the love of family that we, all of us, receive the gifts of faith and hope.  Throughout scripture we are pointed to the human family as the centre of sustaining faith in an often challenging and hostile world.  Never more than today we need these words of faith and of hope nurtured within the sheltering love of the family whether it be the nuclear family of nature or the spiritual family of those who have chosen to live together in worship and service as in the community of a monastery. 

In the face of the prevalent materialism of our day, we hear again the words of a simple woman of no social standing in the face of the culture of death.  In a culture vying for euthanasia and abortion we see the example of heroic women: images, reflections of Blessed Mary, women who nurture the child in the womb, women who nurture the hope of the world in prayer and in their care for others.

In my work as a hospital chaplain I am daily moved by the profound and bottomless love of mothers for their sick children. I am in awe of the long vigils by the bedside, the holding and caressing of the little heads of their children who suffer from cancer or any of the many diseases which flesh is heir to.
I think particularly of an older mother in her early 40’s whom I met recently at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. She is currently sleeping on a cot beside her little nine month old son who has Down’s Syndrome and heart complications. She is often accompanied by her only other child, a 17 year old confident young man who is off to university this Fall but who spends time with his tiny brother and supporting his mother.

The husband and father of the family is away from home for long periods with work.  The mother holds vigil as the little one improves and then has another in a series of setbacks.  The bottomless love of this mother and of other mothers I encounter is a shining example of the love which mirrors that of the blessed Mother who “comes to us” in our weakness and our need, of the blessed Mother who thinks only of our health and our hope, the holy Mother who, like Jesus, has never and will never leave us.

The great English mystic, Julian of Norwich, reflecting on the presence of our Lady wrote these words in her book Revelations of Divine Love, words that she understood to come from Jesus as she contemplated his holy Mother:

“I know well that you wish to see my blessed mother . . . she is what all my blessed creatures most desire to see.”  

Julian continues, speaking of the spiritual vision of our Lady as she is assumed into heaven: 

I was not taught [Julian says] to long to see [our Lady’s] bodily presence while I am here, but the virtues of her blessed soul, her truth, her wisdom, her love, through which I am taught to know myself and reverently to fear God. . . .  
And Jesus . . . showed me a spiritual vision of [Mary] high and noble and glorious and more pleasing to him than all the creatures . . . . now in delight, honour and joy.

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