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Mary, The Woman of the Apocalypse Now
By Chris Sparks (Aug 14, 2013)
Finally, the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all guilt of original sin, on the completion of her earthly sojourn, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen of the universe, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and the conqueror of sin and death.
— Lumen Gentium, 59
On Aug. 15 every year, the Church celebrates the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, body and soul, into heaven — and the Marians hold their profession of vows. It's appropriate for a congregation of religious dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary to hold their vows ceremonies on or near a Marian feast in the Church. But in some ways, the Assumption is the most fitting feast day of all.
Why? Because religious vows also are the visible sign of God drawing people out of the world to himself, raising consecrated religious right out of the ordinary everyday into a special relationship of service and consecration to him. Being a consecrated religious is to be a sign of contradiction in the world today. Consecrated religious are signs of the second coming of Jesus, when God shall be all in all and every idol, every false god, is definitively defeated.
"Our vows, of course, are poverty, chastity, and obedience," said Br. Chris Alar, MIC, "which are specifically designed to be counterbalances to the gods of the world. The current gods of the world today are sex, money, and power. The world will tell you that those are the three things you need to be happy."
So professing vows makes a man truly "in the world, but not of it." The three evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience are answers to the challenge given by St. John the Apostle:
Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world. Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever. — 1 Jn 2:15-17
Religious vows point right outside of this world and its concerns towards heaven, towards transcendence, towards what is above.
It is the duty of the consecrated life to show that the Incarnate Son of God is the eschatological goal towards which all things tend, the splendour before which every other light pales, and the infinite beauty which alone can fully satisfy the human heart. — Blessed Pope John Paul II, Vita Consecrata 16
By taking vows to set aside wealth, sex, and power, consecrated religious point to the nature of true wealth, true communion with other people, and true power: the Trinity. God is the Source of all our being, Lord of the whole creation. His riches are vast beyond anyone else's. The very heart of God is full of Persons giving themselves utterly to other Persons in a dance of self-sacrifice without beginning or end, leading to a love and a delight unimaginable by we who have been created, next to which sex is only a shadow. The Triune God is the Source of all power, all strength. If offered the choice between the things of this world and their Source, which should we choose? So consecrated religious point past this world to the Source and the final goal of all things, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. They live their "apocalypse now," because for them, as for Mary, God is all.
Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it. — Mt 19:12
Those who profess vows come to resemble Mary in a special way, she who was a virgin for the sake of the kingdom of heaven as no other, before or since. Mary, Mother of God and Ever-Virgin, is fruitful and faithful, both physically and spiritually, offering a model for all those who, like her, will embrace poverty, chastity, and obedience for the sake of the kingdom. She who was assumed into heaven points the way for the Marians and for all of us here below: Keep your eyes on what is above. Know where you're going, and why. Do not hold on to the things of the earth in the face of the things of heaven. Choose that which is above, the Source and Summit of all that exists. She was drawn up into heaven by her Son, and now she draws us all up after her, especially through the Rosary, the Jacob's Ladder on which ascend and descend many of the angels and the graces of God.
Father in heaven,
all creation rightly gives you praise,
for all life and all holiness come from you.
In the plan of your wisdom
she who bore the Christ in her womb
was raised body and soul in glory to be with him in heaven.
May we follow her example in reflecting your holiness
and join in her hymn of endless love and praise.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
To go deeper into the Church's teaching about the Assumption of Mary, see Dr. Robert Stackpole's great article.