Castel Gandolfo (AsiaNews) - On the feast of the Assumption of Mary into heaven (body and soul), Benedict XVI recalled the "maternal solicitude" of the Virgin Mary toward "her children", especially "in their difficult times of trial". Visiting the shrines dedicated to her, the pope continued, one encounters many "witnesses" of this concern. "At this moment, I think especially of the unique universal citadel of life and of hope that is Lourdes, where, God willing, I will go in a month, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Marian apparitions that took place there".
In his reflection before the Angelus, from the courtyard of the pontifical residence in Castel Gandolfo, the pope also explained the biblical and theological foundations of this feast, which expresses a "firm conviction of the Church, [which] found its highest expression in the dogmatic definition of the Assumption, proclaimed by my venerable predecessor Pius XII in 1950".
The pontiff's explanations seemed to be intended to smooth over the difficulties that the Protestants and Orthodox have in accepting this dogma: "In the Bible, the last reference to her earthly life is found at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, which presents Mary gathered in prayer together with the disciples in the upper room, waiting for the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14). Following this, a twofold tradition - in Jerusalem and in Ephesus - attests to her 'dormition', as the Eastern [Christians] call it, her 'falling asleep' in God. This was the event that preceded her passage from earth into Heaven, which is the confession of the uninterrupted faith of the Church. In the eighth century, for example, John Damascene, establishing a direct relationship between the 'dormition' of Mary and the death of Jesus, explicitly affirms the truth of her bodily assumption. In a famous homily, he writes: 'It was necessary that she who had carried the Creator as a child in her womb should live together with Him in the tabernacles of heaven' (Homily II on the Dormition, PG 96, 741 B)".
"As Vatican Council II teaches", Benedict XVI continued, "the Most Holy Virgin Mary must always be situated in the mystery of Christ and of the Church. In this perspective, 'just as the Mother of Jesus, glorified in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected is the world to come, so too does she shine forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come (cf. 2 Pt. 3:10), as a sign of sure hope and solace to the people of God during its sojourn on earth' (Const. Lumen Gentium, 68). From Paradise, the Virgin Mary, especially in their difficult times of trial, continues always to watch over the children that Jesus himself entrusted to Her before dying on the cross".
"Assumed into heaven, Mary", the pope concluded, "points out to us the ultimate destination of our earthly pilgrimage. She reminds us that our entire being - spirit, soul, and body - is destined for the fullness of life; that those who live and die in the love of God and of neighbor will be transfigured in the image of the glorious body of the risen Christ; that the Lord humbles the proud and raises up the lowly (cf. Lk. 1:51-52). This is what the Virgin Mary proclaims eternally with the mystery of her Assumption. May You be always praised, O Virgin Mary! Pray to the Lord for us".
During the morning, Benedict XVI went to the church of St. Thomas of Villanova, in Castel Gandolfo. In his homily, he emphasized the importance of the feast of the Assumption, of this "ability to look up to heaven and to God, the true reality and the bridge to a new world", in the face of the "sad spectacle of so much false joy and tormented suffering" that reigns in our society, learning "from Mary how to be witnesses of hope and consolation".