Monday, August 15, 2016

The Feast Day of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven

Today is one of the many Marian feast days. Today we celebrate Mary's Assumption into Heaven. Here are the readings for today:

First Reading: Isaiah 61:7-11

Psalm: Psalm 45:11-16 (Psalm 34:1-9 NRSV)

Second Reading: Galatians 4:4-7

Gospel: Luke 1:46-55

When I was very little, I was taught about the two Old Testament people who got to go to Heaven without dying (one was Elijah, and I can't remember who the other one was). We were taught that very good, very righteous people got to go to Heaven without dying--but interestingly, our class of little Lutherans was not taught about Mary's Assumption into Heaven.  Mary, the mother of Jesus--why was she left out?

My childhood Lutheran churches didn't mention Mary much at all, outside of the seasons of Advent, Christmas Eve, and the post-Christmas Sundays. As I've gotten older, I've felt a bit of mourning for all the celebrations and richness that we've lost in our Protestant traditions that were so eager to show how different we were from the Orthodox religions.

I remember hearing about the possibility of Assumption into Heaven, and I remember as a child wanting to be good enough for that eventual reward.  Clearly, my childhood self was not well-schooled in the concept of grace.

I understand that Mary has often been used as a tool of sexists who want to dominate women and convince them to deny their wants and needs. But as I look around and see the consequences of a whole nation devoted to selfish consideration of ONLY their individual wants and needs, I wonder if it's not time to return to the models of the saints, the prophets, Mary, and Jesus.

You might protest, "We haven't left those models.  What do you mean, return?"  But for most of us, we're surrounded by so many examples of bad behavior.  For example, it's difficult to watch TV and come away feeling enriched.  The news is full of bad behavior, and many a reality show rewards bad behavior.  It's time to start adding good role models back to our lives.  As a Composition teacher, I know that a lot of us do learn best when we have a model to follow. And many of us need lots of models.

Mary gives us a wonderful model of how to structure our religious lives. Today is a great day to go back to read the Magnificat, Luke 1: 46-55:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;
he has looked with favour 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.
He has mercy on those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm
and has scattered the proud in their conceit,
Casting down the mighty from their thrones
and lifting up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
to remember his promise of mercy,
The promise made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children for ever.

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