By Amanda Murthy
The Most Blessed Virgin Mary – through a simple yet important “yes” – became the first evangeliser, disciple, and mother of Christ and His Church.
As the Church prepares to celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary on Saturday 15 August 2020, a Holy Day of Obligation in Australia, the words of Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB in his homily at last year’s Mass serves as a reminder of the significance of the holy feast.
However, because of COVID-19, the Holy Day of Obligation is this year suspended.
“In celebrating the Feast of the Assumption, we are celebrating the fact that Mary has entered joyfully and fully into the mystery of her son’s resurrection,” Archbishop Costelloe said.
“In this, she becomes, in communion with Jesus, the first of many sisters and brothers whose company we hope to share.
“These things we say about Mary are remarkable things to say about a person: that she was always free from sin, that she gave birth to the one who was and is God among us, that she bore a child and yet remained a virgin, and that she was taken body and soul into the glory of Heaven,” he added.
The birth of Mother Mary, which the Church refers to as an Immaculate Conception, was a miraculous event in its own right. Mary’s parents – St Joachim and St Anne – were in their old age when they received the news of her birth. Mary was still a child when the priests foretold that she would be offered to God as a consecrated Virgin for the rest of her life.
The Gospel of Luke 1:38 explains that despite her fears of being a young unmarried virgin, Mary obediently responded to the Archangel Gabriel: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let His will be done”, upon receiving the news announcing the birth of Christ.
While there are only four records of Mother Mary’s words in the New Testament of the Bible – twice at the Annunciation, when Jesus was lost in the temple, and at the wedding in Cana when Jesus performed His first miracle – we see her prominent presence at the most significant moments in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus.
In 1891, Daughter of Charity Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey (1837-1915) was one of the explorers who discovered the Blessed Mother’s home that was built by St John after they fled the persecution in Jerusalem situated near Ephesus, Turkey.
In the book, The Life of Sr. Marie de Mandat-Grancey and Mary’s House in Ephesus, author Rev Carl G Schulteexpressed that this was the home where Our Blessed Mother spent her final years after Jesus had died.
Rev Schulte wrote that Sr Mandat-Grancey was able to purchase the whole Bulbul mountain where the home was located, using her inheritance, restoring the property. A road was built, excavations were done, trees and flowers were planted, and a visitors’ house was constructed.
Paul VI was the first Pope to visit the home in the 1960s. Later, in the 1980s, during his visit, St Pope John Paul II declared the Shrine of Virgin Mary has a pilgrimage place for Christians. It is also visited by Muslims who recognise Mary as the mother of one of their prophets.
Following Mother Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, the Holy See has officially confirmed apparitions at Guadalupe, Saint-Etienne-le-Laus, Paris (Rue du Bac, Miraculous Medal), La Salette, Lourdes, Fatima, Portugal, Pontmain, Beauraing, and Banneux.
St Bernadette, who was the first to witness an apparition from Mary in Southern France, reminds us that Our Lady was free from ‘Original Sin’ and found no obstacles in obeying God’s will.
“Her only object in this world was to keep her eyes constantly fixed on God, to discover His will, and, when she had found out what He required, to perform it – this was reflected in Solomon’s Canticle 5:6, “My soul melted when He spoke.”