The Assumption of the Virgin Mary – August 15, 2017
Revelation 11, 19, 12, 1-6 + Psalm 45, + 1 Corinthians 15, 20-27 + Luke 1, 39-56
St Peter and St William Parishes in Naples, FL
This is a feast of Hope for those of us who would reach deeply into the meaning of the Assumption and draw from the Virgin we honor today one of the lessons she teaches us. One of the ancient symbols of hope for artists is the anchor; that saving instrument of ships tossed around by the wind and waves on a stormy sea. When sailors throw the anchor and it grabs the solid sea floor it promises safety to the endangered crew.
This contrast of images between the stable sea floor and the wind and waves above is a creative way of exploring the hope that we are invited to celebrate and enjoy today. As fragile human beings, we are always being tossed about and threatened by the events of this life from politics to economics, from personal emotional turmoil to international threats across the globe. One look at what we know of the Virgin Mary’s life would quickly lead us to recognize the strength of her hope. While often she is cast a woman of great humility, I’ve always believed that her hope was her greatest virtue. What else would sustain her through the experience of her son’s horrible death, and lead her to remain steadfast among those he had formed and prepared for his resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit?
Hope is the answer. Hope, a way of living in a state of expectation about the future while remaining in the present realizing that the present and the future are really one. Like the Virgin, we are creatures of the future already living in the Reign of God right here today. Our whole being is directed toward what is to come. We carry the future in our hearts because of our Faith, and that Faith calling us to gather on a weekday in mid-August inspires that Hope which is expressed in the Charity with which we live together. Three virtues we call, “Theological”: Faith, Hope, and Charity are Godly, revealing something of the Divine Life within us. Call it Grace!
People of Hope are people of Faith and they are a bit different from optimists. The optimist looks at this world only from below with no eye to the future because for worldly people the ultimate end in this world is death. There is no escaping it. It’s a dust to dust kind of existence. The optimist is always fighting against the inevitable pessimism that a life without God offers. So, the optimist comes along believing that this world can be made perfect here and now, and they alone can do it. There have been a lot of these kind of people in human history. Karl Marx, Lenin, Hitler, Mao were all optimists believing that humans could make things perfect here below. When you think that way, you will do anything and go to any extreme to make it so. They did. They were men without hope. They had no thought, no dream, no desire for a future that crossed into the Divine. In the end, optimists are dangerous people who believe that science, money, psychology, and power can make all things well. Believers see this as naïve at best.
This is not to say that we ignore this world and its injustice and inequality. What it does say is that people of Faith know that it takes Hope to make a difference because hope brings God and the wisdom of Jesus Christ into the effort. Think about the people of hope who believed and had a vision shaped by Faith achieving real reform: Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, John Paul II, Thomas Merton, the Little Flower, and countless other courageous people of faith whose lives were marked by great pain, tragedies, and sadness, yet with a vision of God’s Reign, with courage from the Holy Spirit, they lived with purpose, with joy, and with great peace.
The Virgin we honor by our prayer today is the great Lady of Hope who without a word spoken teaches us about what we can expect for our future not just here, but in the days to come: a place at the right hand of God.