Dom Vincent, Abbot of Saint Joseph Abbey, Spencer

Harmony of Graces: A Homily for the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, Patronal Feast of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance

We just listened to Our Lady respond to her relative Elizabeth with these words, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” And we might add that her body proclaims the greatness of the Lord, too. Our Lady proclaims in body and soul the graces and love that God has showered upon her, and she rejoices in the promise that in the end, we, her children, will be with her, body and soul, in heaven. This is God’s promise.

But first some background to the promise. When Pope Pius XII defined that Our Lady’s assumption was part of the deposit of faith, he referred to the great things God had done for her by using the words, “harmony of graces,” each grace building on and harmonizing with the rest. The harmony began when she was preserved from the moment of her conception from the crippling effects of original sin. It continued when she conceived the true Son of God, Our Lord Jesus Christ, by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit and not by man. The harmony continued as she persevered in patient and enduring charity in all life’s difficulties, even to witnessing her Son’s horrible death on the cross. It rose to a new level in her maternal presence at the birth of the Church on Pentecost. And it reached its climax when she was lifted up to heaven in body and soul. This harmony of graces points to and confirms the Church’s age-long conviction that Our Lord Jesus would never have allowed the body of his mother to decay in the earth after she passed from this life.

But there is another grace which we should never forget. Our Lord Jesus has given his mother to us as our mother, and what mother would not want her children to share in everything she has? “The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name…” is meant to be our song as well, a response to the great gift of immortal, unending happiness in a body and soul perfectly united in heaven. But can we even dare to think that such a grace will be ours?

I think so, because that is what God has promised, both to the Church and to Mary. I think he speaks of this in chapter five of St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. You know the text – “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her, to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” That is what Jesus did first for his mother by a singular grace and privilege at the moment she was conceived. And that is what he will do for us that we might be without spot or wrinkle or any such thing that when he unites our body and soul in heaven. If we have a mother who wants her children to have everything that she has, and a divine bridegroom who even unto death has handed over all he has for our sake, aren’t these grounds for confidence that he will bring us at last to that blessed union of body and soul in heaven?

All of this should not go unnoticed by Cistercian monks, since our whole Order is dedicated to Mary assumed into heaven. Our mission is to witness to the immensity of God’s love for both body and soul, manifested in Our Lady’s bodily assumption. The world needs this witness desperately, especially in the face of so much confusion and despair about the true meaning of the body. Let us then come to this Eucharist to be washed, sanctified, and lifted up along with Our Lady, for indeed, “The Almighty has done great things for us.”