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Breath of the Spirit Reflection: The Assumption and a Love that Cannot Be Erased

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August 15, 2021: The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Revelation 11:19a, 12:1-6a, 10ab
Psalm 45:10, 11, 12, 16
1 Corinthians 15:20-27
Luke 1:39-56

A reflection by Ann Marie Szpakowska

A Woman clothed in the sun,

The moon under her feet,

And on her head a crown of twelve stars.

I’m glad that He gave her to me,

And on her head a crown of twelve stars.

                             -Robert Ray, (based on Rev.12:1)

On Sunday, August 15, 2021, we in the Western Church celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and in the Eastern Church it is the analogous feast known as the Dormition of the Theotokos (literally: “God-bearer).  The dogma of the Assumption was not defined until November 1, 1950, by Pope Pius XII. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Virgin Mary “having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”

There are no scriptures that narrate Mary’s assumption. She last appears in the gospel of John 19:25, standing at the foot of the Cross, alongside Jesus’ “mother’s sister, Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdelene.” Upon seeing Mary and the Apostle John at the cross, Jesus said to her “‘Dear woman, here is your son, and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” She makes an appearance in Acts 1:14 as well - “They joined together constantly in prayer along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and [Jesus’] brothers,” awaiting the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Yet as early as the third and fourth centuries, the belief that Mary’s body did not undergo corruption and was assumed into heaven appeared in apocryphal documents. It also appeared in the private meditations and visions of medieval mystics including the Venerable Maria of Agreda, a 17th Century Spanish Abbess who chronicled the life of Mary in her six-volume work, The Mystical City of God.  By the way, Marilyn H Fedewa published an excellent biography of Maria of Agreda entitled, Maria of Agreda: Mystical Lady in Blue in 2009.

This short bit of history highlights the fact that devotion to Mary has been part and parcel of Catholic/Christian belief since before the Scriptures were written.  As with all Catholic tradition, we are invited to make this history a part of our present. Which image of Mary speaks to you? Do you turn to Mary in times of trouble? Was there an image of Jesus and Mary before which your family gathered to pray the Rosary?  What novena did your home parish hold?  Are the images of Mary connected to your family’s ethnic background?  Do you believe in Mary’s multiple apparitions throughout the world? Have you visited any of her Shrines? What complexion does your image of Mary bear?  As a queer Catholic are you aware of the story of the Madonna of Montevergine (Read about it here)?  And ultimately what does the believe in the Assumption of Mary mean to you?

Professor Carmen M. Nanko-Fernández wrote the following in NCR on August 15, 2020 (See the entire article here): “One way to understand the action of God in the mystery of the Assumption is to recognize it as a divine exclamation of “¡Presente!”... The Assumption is an affirmation of life lived in the embrace of God’s reign, of relationships honored, of stubborn resistance to erasure.  In response to this mystery, we (as LGBTQI members of Dignity) are in turn called to affirm our mutual obligations toward each other and to proclaim, with our words and deeds, ¡Presente! – for those who have passed and those whose dignity cannot and must not be erased.”

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Ann Marie Szpakowska
 has been active and in leadership of Dignity/Buffalo for nearly 40 years. She also participates in the Women's Caucus and has been an active contributor to Liturgical planning for Dignity's Conventions, Conferences and on Feminist Liturgy Committees over many years. She has presented workshops both locally and at Dignity Conventions. She has also been a member of St. Martin de Porres parish since 4 inner city churches merged and built a new sanctuary in 1993. St. Martin de Porres is a predominantly African American community in Buffalo, New York.

 

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