Will You Have Any Stars in Your Crown?
Yesterday was the Feast of the Assumption. It fell on a Monday, so as usual, the American bishops made it not a Holy Day of Obligation. But my parish had three Masses yesterday anyway, and I went in the evening. After all, Mary's my patroness -- and there's little doubt that the readings are some of the coolest of the year -- and, well, it's just one of my favorite holidays.
Besides, I really need the exercise of walking to church. You have no idea how much.
I couldn't hear much of the homily for the screaming little kids (you could definitely tell this was a feast of the Mother of God!), but the new priest said, among other things, that Mary served God body and soul, and that's one reason why Jesus brought her to Heaven, body and soul. I thought this idea worked pretty well for lining her up with Elijah and his chariot, and Enoch, who walked with God and then vanished because God took him. He didn't mention that bit, but he did talk a little about how Mary's assumption is a foreshadowing of the glories of Heaven that we all hope to see. She is crowned with twelve stars -- but as one old English folk hymn tells us, we can all work for stars in our crowns.
It's logical enough that Jesus should take Mary as the first fruits of His Church. Mary was the proto-Christian, Jesus' first follower. She carried the Word through the world for nine months. She served and protected her son throughout His childhood. She followed Jesus to the cross and buried him. She was in the Upper Room when the Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples. For all these reasons, and because Jesus told her John would now be her son, we have long called her the Mother of the Church. She is the Holy Spirit's bride, as Israel could be called the bride of the Father and the Church is the Bride of the Son. So whenever the Bible speaks well of Israel or the Church and shows them as women, we tend to think of Mary, too. (Hey, if you think a passage in the Bible only refers to one thing, you're just not reading hard enough! Heh!)
So we love Mary, and we honor Mary, and we sing with delight that "The queen stands at his right hand, arrayed in gold." But seeing as we are members of a religion that believes we have been made in the image of God and little less than gods, have been made part of God through Baptism and Communion, and are called to become like God -- well, it's hard to see where people think we worship Mary, when so much of our feelings for her are our yearning as a Church to be very soon where Mary already is.
And isn't it just like a mother? We ask her what to do and how she did it, and just get the same lines again and again:
"I am the handmaid of the Lord."
"Be it done to me according to your word."
"My soul magnifies the Lord."
"Do whatever He tells you."