Mary, mirror of God’s greatness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 15 August 2021
Revelation 11:19-12:1-6,10 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 ><}}}*> Luke 1:39-56
Photo by author, December 2020.

We take a break this Sunday from our readings in the bread of life discourse in John’s gospel to celebrate on this date the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary following Pope Pius XII’s dogma in 1950 that at the close of her earthly life, Mary was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven.

Without telling the manner or the circumstances of time and place of the Assumption, its dogma forms part of the deposit of our faith received from the Apostles as attested by its long line of traditions since the Pentecost. It is so important that its celebration supersedes the liturgy of any Sunday because it invites us all to see in Mary raised to heaven the image of the Church and of all the faithful on our way to eternal glory with God.

It is a very timely celebration while we are in the midst of another lockdown due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, giving us hope and inspiration to persevere in all these difficulties and trials to become better disciples of Jesus like his beloved Mother.

Photo by author at the Assumption Sabbath, Baguio City, 2019.

Mary, a type of the Church

Our first reading today presents us with two images of a woman that seem to contradict each other with scenes that anti-climactic, flowing in the reverse mode. It could have been better as in most cases that the first scene depicting the woman in all glory should have been last instead of the woman in childbirth pains and dangers that comes in second. Is it not the sorrowful always comes first leading to glory?

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head 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 heads were seven diadems.

Revelation 12:1-3

It is easy to see the Blessed Virgin Mary in that woman depicted in John’s vision especially if we continue reading on to find the title and authority attributed to her child as our Savior Jesus Christ. But modern biblical studies go deeper than that simplistic view: the scenes speak more of the birth of Christ among us his disciples. It is “painful” because it takes place amid many evil and sins like persecutions and temptations symbolized by the red dragon; but, amid all these, Jesus remains among us, leading us, protecting us, and blessing us. Hence, the woman in this passage becomes a symbol of the Church in the glory of God following Christ’s Resurrection while at the same time in the midst of many earthly battles.

Of course, no other woman can best fit that image than Mary who gave birth to Jesus, who has always been in the most intimate relationship with her son as disciple among all humankind. And because of her role in relationship to her Son, to us his disciples also his Body as community, Mary is the image or type of the Church still giving painful birth to believers like in this time of the pandemic while we are already assured of glory in heaven as children of God. Vatican II perfectly expressed it in declaring:

“By reason of the gift and role of divine maternity, by which she is united with her Son, the Redeemer, and with His singular graces and functions, the Blessed Virgin is also intimately united with the Church. As St. Ambrose taught, the Mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ.”

Lumen Gentium #63

With that, Mary has also become the mirror of God’s greatness in all time, the very reason we venerate her as first among the saints and angels because it is also the same call of holiness to us all as children of the Father and disciples of Christ. It is in this framework that we celebrate her Assumption, especially when we profess every Sunday: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of body and life everlasting. Amen.”

Photo by author, Nazareth, 2019.

Greatness of God, lowliness of Mary

As we have mentioned at the start, the dogma of the Assumption of Mary does not go into details how it took place. What matters most is the fact of the Assumption of Mary, body and soul. Like with her Immaculate Conception, there are no direct nor explicit biblical references to her Assumption; however, from the collective meditations and contemplations in the Church, we find vast and rich sources in reflecting the beauty and wonder of the Blessed Mother’s unique place in our salvation history.

For the Mass of the day of the Solemnity, we contemplate on Mary’s canticle called Magnificat which she sang after being praised by her cousin Elizabeth during the Visitation.

And Mary said:
"My soul proclaims 
the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generation will call me
blessed:  the Almighty has done 
great things for me, and holy is his Name."
(Luke 1:46-49)

It was the first proclamation of the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ whom Mary first received and shared first with her cousin Elizabeth in a town in Judah. See how in the Visitation Elizabeth praised and admired Mary, becoming the first to call her “blessed among women” because “she believed the word spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk.1:45). Instead of giving back her praise and admiration to Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist at that time despite her old age and being barren, Mary sang praises to God like the other great women in the Old Testament after experiencing God’s extraordinary acts in their personal lives and in Israel’s history.

Though we may never have the same personal experiences of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as members of the Church she represents, we can always look through her Magnificat the extent we have also become the mirror of the greatness of God especially at this time when everybody seems to doubt his loving presence in this time of the pandemic.


 It is the reason why we also sing the Magnificat 
during our evening prayers in the Church because 
before we can ever praise God for his kindness and majesty, 
we must first allow him to work in us by being lowly before him like Mary.

See how the Magnificat sings of the depths of Mary’s soul and her faith, of her perfect obedience to the word of God and the mission entrusted to her. Very clear in its lyrical expression, the focus and center is God, not Mary. It is the reason why we also sing the Magnificat during our evening prayers in the Church because before we can ever praise God for his kindness and majesty, we must first allow him to work in us by being lowly before him like Mary.

Have we truly been God’s lowly servant like Mary, allowing God to work his great wonders through us?

Three things I wish to share with you on Mary’s lowliness that enabled God to work his wonders through her:

First is her openness to the word of God like in the Annunciation of the birth of Jesus. Mary had a prayer life, a discipline of making time with God, setting her self aside for the Lord. Prayer is always the start of every relationship with God. That is when we truly become humble to lose control of ourselves, to forget our selves and let God in the Holy Spirit dwell into us. Even in the darkest moments of our lives, there will always be that glimmer of hope because the Holy Spirit enlightens us in our paths.

Second is Mary’s saying “YES” to God. She does not merely listen to God; she says “be it done unto me according to your word.” From the very start, Mary never doubted God in his wisdom and plans that she always said yes. One most beautiful expression by the evangelists of Mary saying yes to God is whenever Mary would “treasure in her heart” words of Jesus and of others.

But Mary’s greatest yes happened at the Cross, in her sharing in the Paschal Mystery of her Son Jesus Christ, being the only other disciple who remained with the Lord until his death. No wonder, it was to her based on tradition that the Risen Lord first appeared on Easter.

Third is Mary’s fidelity to God, her yes was not just a one-shot deal but an everyday yes to Jesus even after he had ascended into heaven. The Acts of the Apostles tells us explicitly how Mary was among the disciples present inside the upper room at Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost. Throughout the ages in her numerous apparitions, Mary said yes to God delivering Jesus Christ’s call for us to penance and conversion, to prayers and the Holy Eucharist especially at Fatima in Portugal.

“The Assumption of the Virgin” by Italian Renaissance painter Titian completed in 1518 for the main altar of Frari church in Venice. Photo from wikidata.org.

Mary went through many hardships and difficulties in her life and in the history of Israel, coming from an obscure town that was a butt of jokes of their time like when Nathanael asked Philip who claimed to have found Jesus Christ, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? (Jn.1:45)”.

In this time of the pandemic, the vision of John in the first reading becomes more real when people refuse to recognize the spiritual dimension of COVID-19, of the need to be converted and to again nurture that relationship with God following decades of affluence and materialism. Like Mary, let us be humble to accept we are not the masters of this world nor of our own life but God almighty.

We are called to persevere with Mary, to be strong in our faith and charity that God will never forsake us so we can be present among the poor and marginalized including those spirits weakened by the prolonged quarantines.

With Mary, let us believe the words of St. Paul how all will come to life again – body and soul like Mary – in the final end of time that begins right now, right here in the midst of all these trials and sufferings. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Quarantine to heaven

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, 15 August 2020
Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6, 10 >><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 >><}}}*> Luke 1:39-56
Photo by author, the Assumption Sabbath Place in Baguio City, 2018.

God our merciful Father, on this Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we start the praying of ten Hail Mary’s daily at noon until the 15th of next month for collective “healing” and the end of COVID-19 pandemic.

Through the Blessed Mother of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, we pray for firm faith, vibrant hope, and unceasing love for you and for others as we go into the sixth month of our quarantine to help stop the spread of the corona virus.

But it seems, until now, O God, many of us still do not get the full meaning of this quarantine period with most of us pinning our hopes for a magic cure that would come to end these sufferings and resume our previous way of life.

Help us see, O God, the process of quarantine, of purification you want us to go through not as a punishment but as a lesson to learn and remember that will prevent us from all the excesses that have burdened us down lately, preventing us to rise like the Virgin Mary.

On this great feast of Mary’s Assumption into heaven, teach us how we may all rise up to your presence, win over COVID-19 not just with a vaccine or physical remedy and cure to the disease but on how we must change our ways of life, our attitudes and dispositions.

How wonderful, O God, to hear the story anew of Mary and Elizabeth who trusted you so much in the coming of our Savior as they both emerged from their own kind of “quarantine” period in this gospel scene of the Visitation.

May we realize like Elizabeth during this quarantine period that true blessedness is in believing “what was spoken by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk.1:45), that we entrust all our hopes in you, O God, not to mere humans who make a lot of promises only to be broken. May we open ourselves like Elizabeth who went into seclusion upon conceiving St. John the Baptist that you always come in the simplest yet wondrous ways of life. Keep within us that sense of wonder and awe, Lord.

“The Assumption of the Virgin” by Italian Renaissance painter Titian completed in 1518 for the main altar of Frari church in Venice. Photo from wikidata.org.

Teach us like Mary to always proclaim your greatness as we rejoice in Jesus our Savior in our very lives of humility and simplicity, obedience and surrender to your will. May our lives be a song of praise to your wondrous deeds, O Lord, like Mary that is centered and focused on you.

Cleanse us of our sins, especially of greed and conceit that have led to this pandemic.

How sad that until now, we still don’t get it.

May this crisis remind us that we are all in a temporary journey here on earth – like in a quarantine – that our final resting place and destination in the end of everything is in you, O God, like Mary whom you gifted with the Assumption of her body and soul into heaven ahead of us all.

May we all strive for the same gift. Amen.

Mary’s song is our song too!

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Thursday, Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, 15 August 2019

Revelations 11:19; 12:1-6, 10 >< )))*> 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 ><)))*> Luke 1:39-56

“Assumption of the Virgin” by Domenico Piola (1627-1703) at the Church of St. John the Baptist, Chiavari, Genoa, Italy. Photo from Google.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed; the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

Luke 1:46-49

Glory and praise to you, O God our loving Father in giving us Jesus Christ through Mary – for without the Mother, there can be no Son.

On this Solemnity of her glorious Assumption into heaven body and soul, you remind us also of our blessedness like her, of her being your Divine Presence that she was able to sing the Magnificat.

Fill us with your Holy Spirit, Father. Let your Son Jesus reign in our hearts so we can boldly proclaim “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord”!

Let our lives proclaim your greatness, O God!

We were wrong, O Lord, we were so wrong when we thought that without you life could be greater and better for us. We were wrong when we thought in this age that disregarding you, O Lord, and your precepts like morality life can be better for us.

We were wrong, O Lord, to think, to believe, and to assert that we are the master of our own fate and destiny when we set you aside, assuming you are dead.

Why, despite all the affluence and comforts of modern world and all those liberal ideas that have swamped us, we are still lost and empty?

Because our body and soul are nothing without you!

On this Solemnity of her Assumption, teach us to empty ourselves of our pride and bloated ego, let us be humble before you and welcome you anew into our hearts, into our very selves.

Let us sing anew your greatness, O God with our body and soul in loving service with one another.

We pray also in a special way for our brothers and sisters who are sick, the elderly, and those with disabilities that they may realise their worth is not in being strong or complete or young, but in being alive, in being persons created in the image and likeness of God. May they persevere in their sufferings with eyes focused on that great gift that await us all like the Blessed Mother at the end of time with the “resurrection of body and life everlasting.” Amen.