Today we celebrate a great feast of Mary and of our Catholic faith – Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. If not for the pandemic, the Baclaran shrine would be filled with devotees today attending masses and praying to the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.
The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a feast which we can regard great honor to Mary. It is not a feast, however, where we can put Mary on a pedestal isolated from all of us. It is neither a feast which we can separate from the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The assumption of Mary is a partaking of the promise of redemption which was fulfilled through the resurrection of Jesus. As Ang Mahal na Birhen, a pastoral letter of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines on the Blessed Virgin Mary on February 2, 1975 warns us,
If the assumption of Mary is left disconnected from the resurrection and ascension of Christ, it can quickly become a devotional “optional extra”, and ceases to be an anticipation of the universal and cosmic transformation of all creation in Christ.
The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, therefore, is a proclamation of our faith about the transformation that God will recreate for all of us at the fullness of time. The taking up by God of Mary’s body and soul into heaven represents the quintessential work of God’s recreation of humanity. Mary’s assumption represents the hope and final destiny of all of creation—all will be transformed in God’s glory. As the Marian theologian, John Janaro articulates,
Mary is … an icon of the whole redemption of creation. In her we see already the radical fulfillment of all things, the perfect penetration of divine love into created being. The glorification of Mary in the Assumption is the beginning of the New Creation in which God will “be all, in all” (1 Cor. 15:28), and it reveals the eternal value of every moment in every life, the transcendent significance of each circumstance in life, because everything comes forth from God and is ordained to his glory.
In the gospel of today’s feast, we hear the great hymn of Mary—the Magnificat. The magnificat showed us a portrait of Mary, which many of us may have never imagined. Many of us see Mary as the meek, mild and humble virgin woman who can never break a plate. Pope Paul VI, in his Mariological apostolic exhortation, Marialis Cultus, dispels the mistaken notion of Mary as meek and passive
Mary of Nazareth, while completely devoted to the will of God, was far from being a timidly submissive woman or one whose piety was repellent to others; on the contrary, she was a woman who did not hesitate to proclaim that God vindicates the humble and the oppressed, and removes the powerful people of this world from their privileged positions (cf Lk. 1:51-53).
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian killed by the Nazis for his opposition to Hitler, shows how the magnificat expresses the prophetic character of Mary,
This song has none of the sweet, nostalgic, or even playful tones of some of our Christmas carols. It is instead a hard, strong, inexorable song about collapsing thrones and humbled lords of this world, about the power of God and the powerlessness of humankind. These are the tones of the women prophets of the Old Testament that now come to life in Mary’s mouth.
Mary powerfully proclaimed in her song, the magnificat, the future social order that will come through the grace and power of God. Mary’s song began as a jubilant reaction to the profound truth of God’s growing within her followed by the prophetic declaration of a new social order that God will usher. As American Mariologist S.M. Roten explains,
The magnificat as Mary’s reaction to God who inhabits her virginal womb proclaimed both the past and the future acts of God; it is retrospective and prophetic at the same time. Mary’s prayer par excellence, the song of the messianic times in which there mingles the joy of the ancient and the new Israel. Her song announces not only the birth of Christ, but also the birth of a new people, a liberated people, a people whose life will be centered on the Spirit of Life. Mary’s song is the magna carta of any and all authentic faith experience.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls the magnificat a sign of a new time, “Mary’s prayer is revealed to us at the dawning of the fullness of time” (CCC, #2617). The dawn of the fullness of time—new heaven and new earth—implies that God’s kingdom has already begun and is active here and now. Mary is the first human being who belongs to the social order ordained by God; the social order that is counter-symbol to the present order of the world.
The magnificat of Mary is, indeed, a prophetic expression of the reign of God, though unwelcome by our present world because of its reversal of fortunes theme, will be celebrated by all humanity and creation at the end of time. Translated in concrete terms, it conveys the hope of eradication of poverty, sound health and education for all, better future, end of all wars, genuine peace, justice for all especially the poor, and harmony with all creation. We can only achieve this vision, not through domination, violence, hatred but through service, collaboration and love for one another.
Mary awakens in us our deepest identity that we are the embodiment of the promise of a new society, a redeemed people and a transformed community working for the prosperity and peace for all. Mary inspires us to confront the disordered systems and structures and proclaim the orderly system of God, which brings true prosperity and justice for all. Mary invites us to be at the side of the poor, excluded and anawim in our society today in cooperating with God in realizing God’s reign here and now.
Like Mary, we who are her devotees are called to be prophets today. As prophet, we are called to proclaim defiance and resiliency against all social structures and systems that is contrary to the Gospel. We are called to announce the liberation from all forms of oppression and domination, and at the same time, pronounce alternative path of service towards the coming of God’s reign.
As prophets, however, we recognize that ultimately our final destiny is beyond this world. Prophecy expresses the experience of eternal discomfort with the world where there is the tension of the already-but-not-yet realization of the reign of God. As SMPPLG states,
“[S]hrines stimulate us to live as a critical and prophetic ferment in these present heavens and in this present earth and they renew the vocation of Christians to live in the world, while not being of the world (cf. Jn 17:16).”
The life of Mary challenges us to open our eyes to the reality of poverty around us, in the society and the world. Like Mary, we are called to participate in bringing justice, mercy, and lasting compassion to those most in need. Just as Mary identified with the anawim and was not timid, we also ought to be bold and daring in proclaiming God’s justice and peace.
As devotees of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, we are called to sing, proclaim and live Mary’s magnificat. We can truly sing and live the magnificat if like Mary we humble ourselves to the power of God, to allow God to be God. Like Mary, we can learn how to proclaim, live and practice the new social order, which Mary sang in the magnificat.
 Ang Mahal na Birhen, #78.
 John Janaro, “The Blessed Virgin in the Ecclesial Movement “Communion and Liberation”,” Marian Studies: Vol. 54, Article 12 (2003). Available at: http://ecommons.udayton.edu/m_studies/vol54/iss1/12, 127.
 Marialis Cultus, #37.
 Dietrich Bonhoeffer as quoted in Elizabeth Johnson, “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary,” Catholic Magazine,December 2003 (Vol. 68, No. 12, pg. 12).
 Marialis Cultus, #18.
 Father Johann G. Roten, S.M. The “Merciless” Magnificat. Accessed at https://udayton.edu/imri/mary/m/magnificat-reflection.php
 Roten, The “Merciless” Magnificat.
 The Shrine: Memory, Presence and Prophecy of the Living God, #16.