“This daughter of Jerusalem is lovely and beautiful as she ascends to heaven like the rising sun at day break(Antiphon, Morning Prayer, Divine Office, Liturgy of the Hours).”
Yesterday our family was on pilgrimage. As the sun peered over the horizon, we piled into the van and headed North, to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. The Assumption of the Blessed Mother is one of most beautiful Feasts of the Liturgical year, and it is celebrated with the highest Solemnity at this humble Shrine, where Our Immaculate Mother condescended to appear to poor immigrant woman, in 1859. The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help remains the only approved Marian apparition site in the United States. This is a place of miracles. Yesterday, Bishop David L. Ricken noted during his homily that in the 18 months since the formal approval of the Marian apparitions at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, more than 225,000 pilgrims have brought their hearts and prayers to Christ through Mary at this sacred site. Bishop Ricken also stated that month after month, he receives letters documenting the myriad of both spiritual and temporal graces that have been received by those seeking Our Lady’s intercession.
Over the years, our family has enjoyed the privilege of visiting this site frequently and participating in the celebration of feasts and holy days. On this particular feast, two of my boys had the honor of serving and three of my daughters enjoyed the grace of processing under Our Lady’s Banner.
Yesterday, we joined our hearts and souls with approximately 3,000 faithful Catholics in celebrating the Feast which commemorates the day Our Blessed Mother was assumed body and soul to the throne prepared for her from the beginning of time by the Most Blessed Trinity. There among an intimate family of 3,000 strong, we worshipped Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and honored His beloved Mother on the Solemnity of her Assumption.
Yesterday’s Gospel commemorated the glorious visit to Our Lady, the Theotokos, by the Archangel Gabriel; who greeted her with the words: “Hail Full of Grace (Luke 1: 28)” as he heralded her high calling. The words the Angel Gabriel used here are precise. Recall, the Greek word, kechatitomene (Kεχαριτωμένη) is scripturally used only in this passage. This little word is pregnant with meaning. The connotation is that Mary is the chosen vessel, the one who is so replete with grace that not even the slightest shadow of darkness is present. Our Lady is the Ark of the New Covenant; the one so pure, so holy, the daughter so highly favored that the abyss of God’s magnificence will fill her and flow through her maternal heart for all eternity.
Mary is the new Eve, the Ark of the New Covenant. Our Lady is the woman clothed with the sun spoken of in the Book of Revelation:
A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the Sun, with the Moon under her feet and wearing a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns and on its head were seven diadems. Its tail swept away a third of the stars and hurled them down toward the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth. She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne. The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God. . . (Revelations 12: 1-6).
It was fitting that we honored Our Lord’s beloved Mother on this feast day, in this holy place where Our Lady has interceded for her children for over 150 years. What a magnificent celebration! The warm sun beamed brightly on the large crowd. Even amid the thousands of pilgrims present, one could still sense a transcendent serenity.
Holy Mass is the ultimate prayer; and yesterday’s Holy Mass was magnificent! Among the highlights of the Mass was Bishop David L. Ricken’s outstanding homily. Fr. Peter Stryker quoted one of the concelebrating priests who described it as “the best ‘Bishop Homily’” he had ever heard. It was Christ-centered, Marian, Magisterium-faithful, inspirational, and rock-solid. Relevant Radio produced a photo montage of this extraordinary Feast, and set against the backdrop of Bishop Ricken’s homily: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0uFRyt2_PA&feature=player_detailpage. This 22- minute gem is a treasure.
Praying the rosary as we processed with Our Lord’s Eucharistic Presence was deeply moving. One could feel the warm caress of the sun, as thousands of voices echoed the words of St. Gabriel,
“Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee, Blessed are thou among women, and Blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
The beauty of this moment in time is forever etched in my heart with deep gratitude.
May Our Lady intercede for us! Happy Feast of the Assumption,
Ad Jesum per Mariam,
* A film crew from Dolan Productions was on-site at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help during the Feast of the Assumption filming a special that is scheduled to air on EWTN on October 9, 2012.