Monday, August 17, 2009

Meditation fot the Octave of Assumption - Triumphs of Mary, Dormition, Assumption and Coronation of Our Blessed Mother

Mary had various triumphs - triumphs of faith, of love and mercy, endurance, and glory. And in God's providence they led up one to the other, one a preparation for the next, to the culmination - the glorius Assumption into Heaven.
Her first triumph was in Bethlehem. She had believed the word of the Lord, the word Gabriel had brought to her at Nazareth. Faith had triumphed, the Saviour of the world was born. Mary's heart that night was making melody with the angels of God on High: Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Her second triumph was of faith too. Her glory was that the Divinity of her Son was made evident in His public life. The crowds thronged to hear Him: they followed Him, forgetting rest and food. He healed the sick; He cast out devils and they proclaimed Him Christ, the Son fo God. He raised the dead to life; He forgave sin.
All these wonderful things Mary saw, and this triumph of hers lasted for three years, andd it strengthened her for the next triumph - the triumph over a mother's heart, the triumph of love and mercy over sinners.
Calvary is the next scene of Mary's triumph. She offered Him up a Sacrifice for sin, through pity for us poor sinners. She stands there the Queen of Martyrs. As the soul transcends the body, so the sword-thrust, that pierced her soul, was more agonizing than any suffering of the martyrs. The shadow of the cross had been hovering over her since the child was born. At last the hour has come, foreseen for three and thirty years. She gave up her Divine Son and took us for her children in His place. What a bad bargain, says one of the Fathers of the Church.
It is over. As Mary had partaken of the suffering of the Cross, justly did she participate in the triumph of the redeemer in His Resurrection and Ascension.
The Gospel is silent. No mention of Mary, the Immaculate, on easter morning. That was Mary's humility. But we reverently congratulate her on the joy of Easter, for surely she was the first to behold her Son, risen, glorious, immortal. What a triumph! That one moment of ecstatic joy more than compensated the Mother of Sorrows for all she had gone through during the terrible days of the Passion.
All too quickly pass the forty days, and from Mount of Olives Jesus ascended into heaven. During these wonderful days Mary heard from Jesus Himself many of the pains of the passion and these in time, she passed on to the Evangelists. Would it not have not been a beautiful ending, if Mary had been taken up to heaven with her Son? There was another triumph she had to pass through first - the triumph of patience. The infant Church needed a mother. It needed her to tell them all these words that she had kept in her heart. The Evangelists needed her for the Gospel records. Her example, influence, guidance, presence, was needed, and she gave for over twenty years without a word. And yet what a bleak, dreary world to her it must have been when Jesus had gone: She had exchanged God for man.

Mary's Life after The Death of Christ
After the Scene on Calvary Mary is mentioned only once: "All these were persevering with one mind in prayer, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren" (Acts 1, 14).
After that we must fall back on the apocryphal writings, the value of which we have already discussed. We have also many traditions attached to sites in Jerusalem. Such traditions are not negligible: traditions are not the product of legends, but give rise to them.
It was in the tradition of Jerusalem that Mary after the Ascension did what became known as "the Holy Circuit", a pilgrimage in Jerusalem to the holy places connected with the life of Christ. This traditional pilgrimages was adopted by the Franciscans when they took up residence in the city in 1335. Once, as Mary was coming down the Mount of Olives, she was met by the Archangel Gabriel, who gave her a palm in token of her triumphal entry into heaven. This was three days before her death. The place is still known as et Tamir, the Palm Tree, and the ruins of a church were still visible there until 1882.

Age of Mary
We know from tradition that Mary lived with St John beside the place of the Last Supper and died there in the place known as the Dormition.

We have no means of determining the afe of Mary. The Franciscans have for centuries recited the Franciscan Crown, which consists of seventy-two Hail Marys in honour of the seventy-two years of her life. This was revealed to a novice of the order. On the other hand St John undoubtedly remained in Jerusalem as long as Mary lived: "From that hour, the disciple took her to his own [house]" (John 19:27). After Pentecost, John appears with Peter in Jerusalem (Acts 3) and then in Samaria (Acts 8:14). When Paul goes to Jerusalem in 49 AD to attend the council of the Apostles he finds John there (Gal. 2:9; Acts 15). After this, we do not find him any longer in Palestine; probably he left by the year 57; for when Paul returns to Jerusalem he makes no mention of him (Acts 21). Many famous authors accept this as the date of John's departure from Jerusalem. If Mary, as commonly believed was sixteen at the birth of Christ, she was seventy-two in the year 56AD.

Death of Mary
On the third day after meeting with the Archangel Gabriel, when Apostles forewarned, have arrived, a Sunday, Mary dies: Jesus receives her soul which He consigns to Michael. Jesus ordered the burial of Mary in Gethsemane. Having placed the body in the Gethsemane, it was transported to paradise by angels, where it was reunited with the soul. It would take many pages to defend the tradition of Jerusalem over Ephesus as the place of Mary inhabitation and death, and it is not the point of this meditation. However, it may be appropriate to mention the revelations of Bl Catherine Emmerich regarding the house of Mary located in Ephesus are the main source of this supposition, not apocryphal writings. The date of Mary's death is 21 Tobi (January). Yet the fact remains that we must wait until the 7th century, before the Patriarch Modestus explicitly locates the death of Mary on Mount Sion, although it was undoubtedly the firm belief of the Church of Jerusalem that Mary after the Ascension of Jesus lived and died in the vicinity of the Cenacle. When this holy place, fortunately saved in the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in 70AD and by Hadrian in 135, was included in the great Basilica, Hagia Sion, built by the Patriarch John (388-417) together with the sacred memories of the Last Supper and the Descend of the Holy Ghost, was included also the memory of the Death of the Blessed Virgin, which little by little was localized in a certain part of the Basilica. The Patriarch Sophronius (634-638) successor to Modestus, in a hymn written in 603-604 records "the Stone on which the Mother of God lay in her last moments," and the site is marked on the plan of Arculf (670). This sacred edifice so eulogized by St John of Damascus (748) fell into ruins in 966 and remained so until the arrival of Crusaders. Their devotions to the Mother of Christ explains why in their reconstruction of the Basilica the remembrance of the Dormition prevailed over all the other memories and the official title of the church was "St Mary on the Mt Sion" . The Chapel which was believed to be the room of Mary, was in the northern nave, and on the dome was the inscription "Exaltata est sancta Dei Genitrix super Choros Angelorum." The Church was served by the Canons Regulars of St Augustine, but the Chapter came under the Patriarch, who with his clergy went there in procession from the Holy Sepulchre ro celebrate the feast on August 15.

In 1187, Saladin took Jerusalem from the Crusaders and the Basilica was handed over to the native clergy. Damaged in 1219, it was completely destroyed in 1244.
When in 1335 the Franciscans took up residence beside the Cenacle, which they repaired, they also hoped to rebuilt the Church of St Mary. They never succeeded in building anything except a small Chapel, which the authorities ordered to be destroyed on May 23, 1490. And when the Franciscans were finally expelled from the Cenacle, in 1553, the site remained a ruin.
The place was generally called by the local inhabitants Nijaha, i.e. lamentations or bewailing of the dead, whereas Europeans called it "Dormitio or Koimesis" (Sleeping).
In the year 1898, during his visit to Jerusalem, Emperor William II was given the site as a present by Sultan Abdul Hamid, and he handed it over to the German Catholics under the administration of the Archbishops of Cologne. the foundation stone of the present Church of the Dormition was laid on October 7 1900, and on the March 21, 1906 the Shrine was given into the charge of the Benedictine Monks of Beuron. The Church was consecrated on April 10, 1910, and on August 15, 1926, the Benedictine Priory was raised to the dignity of an Abbey. The Church was badly damaged during the fighting in 1948, and years after that the Israeli soldiers were still occupying the part of the church. The whole building, church, monastery, and belfry, is very massive and presents an appearance of a medieval fortress. the upper church, in the apse, floor and side chapels, is beautifully decorated with mosaics and bronzes. The crypt, of two concentric circles is both beautiful and devout. In the centre is the altar of the Dormition and before the altar lies the statue of the Virgin in the sweet sleep of death.

Excerpts from "Marian Shrines of the Holy Land" by Fr Hoade, OFM