The Assumption of our Lady

15 August 2019


I always experience the celebration of this feast as a particularly joyous reunion with Jesus and Joseph, and that great sense of relief that it is all over now, no more suffering, no more separation. There must, also have been many happy memories to share. This lovely image shows Mary as a typical mother cuddling her baby on her breast. We do not know how much or how early Mary knew of God’s plans for Jesus.

The meeting with Simeon and Anna when Jesus was presented in the temple according to Jewish law and customs was a sharp reminder that Jesus was no ordinary child.  Simeon warned Mary that ‘sorrow, like a sharp sword will break your own heart’ Luke.2.35

We do know that his birth was miraculous but it would appear that he grew up like any normal child.  Like any parents Mary and Joseph would have cherished him and delighted in his first babbling noises as he began to try to communicate with them; like other parents they would be waiting for and rejoicing in his first words. They would have supported him like any parents in his efforts to sit up and look around him. 

We can imagine how they would keep praising and encouraging him as speech developed. Likewise, they would have helped and encouraged him in his first faltering steps as he learnt to walk. Soon he would be running around and they would be keeping a watchful eye on what he was doing and were he was exploring. As Jesus was known as the Carpenters son, we can imagine that he spent a lot of time with Joseph who would have carefully kept him safe while he explored his work bench. Later we gather, he learnt Joseph’s trade. His childhood was so normal that perhaps his parents pushed his strange birth and Simeon’s stark words to the back of their minds and just enjoyed his development.

It was when Jesus went up to the Temple after his twelfth birthday that we get the first hint that he was becoming aware of being different. His response to Mary’s reproach for staying behind in the Temple puzzled them.

 “My child, why have you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been looking for you.  ‘Why were you looking for me? he replied did you not know that I must be busy with my Father's affairs.’  But they did not understand what he meant.” Luke 2. 48-50 

We are told that Mary pondered his words and all that had been spoken about him in her heart.

After a scary journey into Egypt to escape Herod’s plan to kill the child they went back to Nazareth when they heard that Herod had died and lived a simple, normal, happy family life. They must have taken great delight in his presence and in the progress he was making. At some stage Joseph must have died because there is no further reference to him. It is likely that Jesus supported his mother financially by working at Joseph’s work bench as a carpenter.

We imagine that it was the appearance of John the Baptist that stirred up deeper conversations between Jesus and his mother about his understanding of God’s plans for his future. What we do know is that Jesus left Nazareth and travelled North to Capernaum and was baptised in the River Jordon by John the Baptist. We can speculate that the baptism and the decent of the Holy Spirit was a profound experience for Jesus. Perhaps he went back to his Mother after his forty day fast in the wilderness and they had more deep conversations about his future work.

Life was never the same again for them. Jesus’ seems to have used Capernaum for the base of his ministry of teaching. Information from the crowds that followed him, his wonderful teaching, his many miracles spread through the whole area and would have been reported to Mary by friends. Sadly, the only village that did not receive him well was Nazareth, as Jesus himself said ‘a prophet is never accepted in his own village'. Word too must have reached Mary of the growing antagonism of the Pharisees. By this time, she would be becoming aware of what the end might be. She was certainly present at all the most significant incidents of his public life.

She was present at the last supper, and met him on the road to Calvary as he carried the cross up the hill. She stood with John at the foot of the cross and saw with horror his lacerated body and the crown of thorns. She heard herself committed to the care of John, the beloved disciple and watched as drew his last breath. Was she we wonder expecting his resurrection?

We do not know how much time Jesus spent with his mother during his forty days of risen life on earth. I like to think that she was the first person he appeared to in the privacy of their home and that she was waiting for him, knowing that he would come. For everyone else Jesus’ Resurrection was totally unexpected, even though he had spoken of it to his disciples. Jesus was around for forty days after his Resurrection. Much of the time he was preparing his disciples and assuring them that it was better for them if he returned to the Father and that he would be with them till the end of time. Mary watched with them when he ascended into heaven. We wonder what her feelings were as he disappeared into the Clouds.

That is the last we hear of Mary in the scriptures. The Evangelists concentrated on the development and growth of the Church. We can be sure that with John she would be involved in nurturing the infant Church. I wonder if, nevertheless it was a lonely life and that she longed for her own death and to be reunited with her Son.

The commemoration of her death or dormition (falling asleep) as it was known in the east is known as the Assumption because of the tradition that her body did not decay but that she was raised up body and soul into heaven. This tradition has grown steadily since the 5th Century and at the beginning of the 20th century after worldwide consultation of bishops, the Pope formally and infallibly declared the doctrine of the Assumption to be part of the authentic and ancient doctrine of the universal Church. 

Sr Camilla


Acknowledgements: Mother and Child Convent Chapel, Southcoates Lane, Hull; The Assumption of Mary, St Mary's Church, Lady Chapel, Derby