Fairest Daughter of the Father: On the Solemnity of the Assumption | Rev. Charles M. Mangan
The Solemnity of the Assumption, celebrated annually on August 15, presents a golden opportunity to reconsider the person of the Ever-Virgin Mary and her singular mission in the Church. We often contemplate the relationship between Mary and her Son; this reflection will focus on the relationship which Our Lady enjoys with the First Person of the Most Blessed Trinity.
Mary has been hailed as the "first-born" daughter of the Father. This reality is evident if one remembers that God--and in a specific way the Father--has created Mary, just as He has created us. She is "one of us" because she is fully human. We are children of the Almighty in a similar vein in which she is His daughter. As we rely on God for our very existence, so, too, does our Immaculate Mother.
What do the Father and His sinless daughter share? Venerable Pius IX (1846-1878), in his Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus (December 8, 1854) in which he once-and-for-all defined the truth of Our Lady's Immaculate Conception, wrote: "To her did the Father will to give His only-begotten Son--the Son Whom, equal to the Father and begotten by Him, the Father loves from His Heart--and to give this Son in such a way that He would be the one and the same common Son of God the Father and of the Blessed Virgin Mary."
The Father gave many overwhelming spiritual riches to Mary to strengthen her in her inspiring vocation as the Mother of His Son. Yet, He gave no greater gift than that of the Lord Jesus. Mary, in turn, imitated the Father in raising Jesus from before infancy to manhood. Jesus knew well the best of all gifts which His Mother faithfully imparted: the boundless love of His Beloved Father. Now, as the Son of Mary, Christ came to experience the love of His Mother which was patterned after that of His Father.
One may rightly assert that Jesus Christ is the link between the Father and Mary. We often claim that children receive much of their identity from their parents. Eye color, physical build and even disposition are often traced from the child back to its parents. Truly, the offspring rely on their father and mother for multiple and varied things. (And, of course, the Messiah willed to come forth from Mary and be dependent on her and Saint Joseph.) However, the Holy Family of Nazareth is a different case. Mary and her loving husband discovered their purpose in the Divine Child. In Jesus, they found their identity--unto everlasting life!
From her Immaculate Conception to her glorious Assumption body and soul into Paradise (and even now), Mary never lost her sense of utter dependence on the Father. Yes, she was chosen to be the Virgin Mother of Emmanuel. But, she always recalled that she needed God each moment of her life. When exclaiming the Lord's unparalleled goodness in the Magnificat (Saint Luke 1:46-55), this humble maiden declared: "The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His Name" (Verse 49). She did not contend: "Holy is my name." Mary was entirely convinced that God alone is the source of all we are and all that we have.
Father Jean Galot, a French theologian and member of the Society of Jesus and professor emeritus of Christology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, recently explored in an article the intimate bond between the heavenly Father and Mary. We are able to locate this connection "in the attitude of the Baby Jesus." Father Galot argues: "In His Infancy, He (Jesus) developed a double fundamental love. He said 'Abba' to the celestial Father and 'Mamma' to the earthly Mother. Other babies unite in the affection for father and mother, who are both human; Jesus associated a divine Father and a human Mother in the same filial love."
These two cries, "Abba" and "Mamma," came from the very same Person--Jesus Christ. It is apparent that the Child recognized in His Mother the care, concern--yes, charity!--which springs from the very Heart of the Father.
If we grant that God never does anything without a sufficient and the most excellent of reasons, then we must conclude that His choice of Mary as the Mother of the Master has certain spiritual ramifications for those who are the brothers and sisters of Jesus.
1) Mary teaches us how to love the Omnipotent One as we ought. Again, Mary is fully human. She is of the same "stuff" as we. Hence, we implore her powerful intercession in learning how to love the Holy Trinity as she does, our weaknesses notwithstanding.
2) The Father has a plan for our lives that we are to yield to immediately if we wish to be content. Imagine what Mary would have missed had she refused the Lord's tender mercy? He summoned her to become Jesus' Mother; she readily accepted. What we forego when we say "no" to our Creator! What we gain when we submit to His unfathomable will!
3) Only in Jesus Christ will we discover our identity and be filled with authentic happiness. The Redeemer teaches us the truth about Himself, His Father, the Paraclete, His Mother, and ourselves. He waits to form us in His Sacred Word. He will never compel us to consent to his desires, but how He wants us to! Mary saw in Christ the splendor of truth. Although she suffered intensely, especially on Calvary, her pure soul was steeped in joy because she courageously adhered to the designs of the Lord, no matter how challenging. The Holy Spirit granted her an abiding tranquillity which is indescribable.
The same Father Who sent His Son to Mary through the power of the Consoler invites us, as He did Mary, to find in Jesus the answer to all our questions and the balm to all the illnesses of our souls. We can seek to imitate in some way, with the Holy Spirit's assistance, Mary's sublime love of the Father. Our wholehearted acceptance of His love and compassion means that we will flourish spiritually in our day as the Mother of Christ did--and continues, now assumed into Heaven--in hers.
This article originally appeared in a slightly different form in the July/August 1999 issue of Catholic Faith magazine.
Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles and Excerpts:
• The Blessed Virgin in the History of Christianity | John A. Hardon, S.J.
• "Hail, Full of Grace": Mary, the Mother of Believers | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
• Mary in Feminist Theology: Mother of God or Domesticated Goddess? | Fr. Manfred Hauke
• Excerpts from The Rosary: Chain of Hope | Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.
• The Past Her Prelude: Marian Imagery in the Old Testament | Sandra Miesel
• Immaculate Mary, Matchless in Grace | John Saward
• The Medieval Mary | The Introduction to Mary in the Middle Ages | by Luigi Gambero
• Misgivings About Mary | Dr. James Hitchcock
• Born of the Virgin Mary | Paul Claudel
• Assumed Into Mother's Arms | Carl E. Olson
• The Disciple Contemplates the Mother | Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan is a priest of the Diocese of Sioux Falls (South Dakota). He was ordained to the Priesthood in 1989. He currently works in the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Access more of his articles online here.