We have two significant celebrations in honor of Mary during the month of August. One is on August 15, when we celebrate her Assumption into heaven. The other is exactly a week later on August 22, when we celebrate her Queenship. Both of these celebrations are intimately connected as they proclaim the culmination of the life of Mary in her unique role as the perfect disciple of Christ. Whenever we want to know how to live as followers of Christ, we look to our Blessed Mother.
On the Solemnity of the Assumption, the first reading at Mass from the Book of Revelation tells us, “A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1). This is a beautiful image of the glory of Mary which reaches its fulfillment as she is assumed into heaven and also as she is crowned as Queen of Heaven and Earth. That which lights heaven and earth is the light of Christ who also lights Mary.
The celebration of the Assumption of Mary is above all a feast of hope. It is the feast that reminds us of where we are all heading and that we have our ultimate home in heaven. While what God has given to us in this life is good and meant to make us happy, it is temporary and passes away before us as each day of our lives passes. We are on a journey to eternal life where ultimately all in this world will be transformed into the fullness of God’s Kingdom. Mary has made the journey perfectly and reminds us of what awaits us. It is this hope that gives us life and purpose and also enables us to have hope in the difficult situations we face. It was most fitting that Pope Francis recently added the title of Mary as Mother of Hope to her Litany. We are encouraged through this hope on the Assumption.
When we celebrate the Queenship of Mary on the octave of the Assumption, we further rejoice in her unique role as being crowned the Queen of Heaven and Earth. Because of her perfectly living in hope all during her life, she was assumed body and soul into heaven as the perfect human person. Her identity and role were confirmed. We celebrate how she is bound uniquely to her Son both in heaven and on earth and truly is the woman “clothed with the sun.” As Saint John Paul II so profoundly stated in his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, “Christ was raised in glory to the right hand of the Father, while Mary herself would be raised to the same glory in the Assumption, enjoying beforehand, by unique privilege, the destiny reserved for all the just at the resurrection of the dead. Crowned in glory – as she appears in the last Glorious Mystery – Mary shines forth as the Queen of the Angels and Saints, the anticipation and the supreme realization of the eschatological state of the Church.”
Mary’s Queenship, like that of the Kingship of her Son, is a role of service and love. She is, in the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “queen in the service of God to humanity, is queen of the love that lives the gift of self to God (so as) to enter into the plan of salvation of man. To the angel she replies: I am the handmaid of the Lord.”
Last year on the Solemnity of the Assumption, Pope Francis emphasized the role of Mary as the “Gate of Heaven.” He said that in heaven, “she awaits us, just as a mother waits for her children to come home.” During the latter part of August, as we celebrate the Assumption of Mary and the Queenship of Mary, we are filled with hope knowing that, like Mary, our home is in heaven where God will fully reveal Himself to us in the splendor of His love. We look to Mary, our Mother and Queen, “clothed with the sun” as we continue our journey in her footsteps.
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
August 14, 2020