The Last Enemy

JMJ

The Readings for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

I have been having Senior Moments. I’m 55, these are to be expected. Actually, I’ll be 55 in two weeks so close enough anyway…

I have been having Senior Moments: by which I mean I forget things. Where’s my wallet? It’s in my pocket. Where are my glasses? They’re in my hand. Where are my keys? Where are my keys? No really, where are my keys? They’re not in my bag they’re not in the pocket where they should be. They’re not in the coat. They’re not in the shirt I wore last night. They’re not in the pocket where they shouldn’t be. They’re not in the other pocket of the coat. They’re not in the other bag that I haven’t used in a week. They’re not in my pants from last night. Wait a minute. They’re in another pocket in the pants that I’m wearing. They are in a different pocket than I’ve ever put them in before. I have a sign on my door: it reminds me to carry my wallet, my phone, my keys, my rosary, and my teeth.

Senior Moments…

But the other day, I had one that terrified me: I was going to take a shower. Then there I was standing in the kitchen wrapped in a towel. I was dry. The towel was wet. So I knew I had taken a shower but I couldn’t remember it. The floor was wet in front of the shower. I open the door the inside of the shower was wet. I could not remember having taken a shower. Still can’t. I remembered later that I opened the shower to spray the after-shower cleaning stuff and I noticed that the guy who comes in twice a month to do things around my apartment, had actually scrubbed the chrome inside my shower. I remember noting that. But I don’t remember taking a shower. It was terrifying because I’ve not lost a few minutes in time before. At least not that I remember…

And so this morning, I checked with one of my fellow coworkers of advanced age. She said, no: this is normal. Then she and I did an organ recital, let the reader understand.

Senior Moments…

St Paul says, Novissima autem inimica destruetur mors. The last enemy to be conquered is death.

Senior moments: my recent brush with cancer, my teeth falling out, your blood pressure, your eyesight, your liver disease and even – if you’re young enough not to have any of these yet, your very lack (compared to my having) is a sign of mortality.

We will both die. Remember. You too will die.

Mary’s falling asleep in the Lord, and her bodily assumption into heaven means that Senior Moments matter. When like to picture Mary as a young virgin. We think of her as beautiful, calm, loving, tender. We see light radiating from her beautiful peach colored face. If we have a more realistic icon, like the Tilma of Guadalupe, we see light radiating from her brown face. But she’s always young. By the time of her death, however, she was old and decrepit. She was frail. She was weak: she needed a doctor all the time and she needed a young man to take care of her. St. John of Damascus teaches us that she freely chose to follow the pattern established by the maker in the fall. She became old, she weekend, and she died. But for Mary, death became something new. In fact for all Christians death is something new. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin teaches us not only Senior Moments matter but matter matters to God. Mary’s falling asleep in the Lord and her bodily Assumption into heaven means not that God changes us into Spiritual Beings but that God changes our matter into what it was meant to be.

Let.
There.
Be.
Light.

We know, at this point in time, that light is both particles and waves. Somehow those particles and waves can coalesce into rays of light are matter – yet not – and that somehow those particles and waves form the tiniest quarks of matter, form the atoms and the cells that make up our bodies. Light courses through the chromosomes that make us into men and women, through the cell division and growth that brings us to maturity. Light radiates through the life that we have, and God, the Father of Lights, has entered in and restored what was lost.

Mary, as the Ark of the New Covenant, as the jar that contained the heavenly Manna, as the temple that held the glory of God, as all of Heaven that contains the Divinity not even a bit; Mary is a sign that you and I are living beings of matter becoming light.

Not some ghostly, fake “spiritual” light but physical light, living and breathing in the presence of God.

The scripture says that at the Transfiguration Jesus’ entire being became light. But it was still Jesus.

So also with you and I: the last enemy to be conquered is death. And when, in God’s time, death comes for you or I, by Mary’s prayers, we will spit in his eye. And he will laugh with us.

The Divine fire will catch us and raise us in glory in ways that we cannot imagine. Let there be light. “Not this body with all of its inconveniences,” said Father Albert, tonight at Mass (the seed for this meditation). Not this body with all its inconvenience and pain. But this body freed of inconvenience!

Mary’s Assumption means where Jesus has gone we can go too. Mary’s Assumption shows us that life is not ended for God’s faithful people: it is only changed. No more senior moments. Only pure joy that we will never have to remember: because it will never end.

The True Story of Sleeping Beauty

JMJ

The Readings for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Astitit regina a dextris tuis in vestitu deaurato, circumdata varietate.
The queen takes her place at your right hand in gold of Ophir.

Let me tell you a love story. This is a real love story, not a romance, such as we pass off today as love; nor is it a “chick flick” sort of story, where things are all feelings and mush. Yet it is not a fairy story, for this is real. And since it deals with real things, with real love, it is not just a story of a man and a woman, not just boy meets girl. For real love does not just change the hearts of two people, like some blushing beauty and the quarterback at a football game. Real love changes the world. And so it must start with two ordinary people. This story involves a princess who would be a queen ere long, and a king who would die, and the king’s son would would also reign. But I get ahead of myself. 


It starts in the most ordinary way: an arranged marriage and a baby coming, awkwardly, before the wedding. This Baby is God the Son, and I don’t want to tip too many cards but you should know the Baby is Jesus, and the princess is Mary. And the arranged wedding is with Joseph. See her father, Joachim, place Mary’s hand in Joseph’s. Arranged marriages are where love can blossom first and foremost. We have it in our heads that Romance is Love. But it is not. And Romance does not give way to love. Romance is your hormones running amok. We are so confused by this that when the hormones stop running, we think love has ended. We take great pains to continue the run… but an arranged marriage with no pretense of romance, must needs give rise to duty.

Then Real Love, the Love that this story is about, grows directly from duty. Real love is self-sacrifice, and even death. Real love sings most gloriously just before it dies, and makes of an entire life an aria of surpassing pain and light. And then it offers it all up to God.

So Joseph, who was put into an arranged marriage, was there as a middle aged man getting a young second wife, or else as a teenager, but either way, this man discovered his duty to God coming first even in his marriage bed. And in that duty, the man arose in strength  of the Spirit, and loved his wife and her son, giving glory to the Royal line he embodied, this poorest son of King David. He was providing safety for them both, and a home. His life wrapped up in their lives, and theirs in his. True love changed him forever.

Yet he died. And his wife, the Queen, mourned him and never married again, raising his children and her own son, and caring for all. And Jesus, too, knowing the death of his father, and the pain that young children have over things they do not understand, learned what it is when God loses by death what he loves in life. And Jesus cared for his mother in her loss. And God knows what it is to see a parent grieve, when we children cannot offer the right comfort. God knows the pain that we feel. I don’t just mean God understands, or in his wisdom “gets” it. I mean, damn it all, God has actually done these very things.

And Love – real love – changes the world.

The boy becomes a man. The woman ages. The prince rises as King in David’s line after the man who fostered him. And as something else, the Anointed of God. And the woman, the Queen watching from the side, knows where all this is leading.

And when she comes again to the fore, she is standing before his very throne and a little to the right, as reigning from the tree, he is slain. And the King gives us all his mother. And she becomes our mother too.

Again she mourns. For her love, a mother’s duty, is now slain. And she does not understand, does not know why God has singled her out for this grief. Her heart is pierced by seven swords and God now must watch in ways we cannot understand, while his own mother mourns the loss of her only son. God, who knows all things, know now, this, too, from the inside. 

Something new happens now.  In tradition, the Resurrection – which we all see coming – is depicted as the harrowing of hell, with Christ holding the hands of Adam and Eve as signs of all humanity rising. If you will, however, see Christ bursting the gates of hell and finding first his Daddy who is proud beyond a father’s knowing, and there are tears of joy in that place where never joy has been. And in the clasped arms of love the darkness is destroyed, and hell washes away in peals of Dad and Son laughing at how painful it was, but it was only the end of night. Real love changes everything.

Now this love story has one more act. After the Resurrection, after the Ascension and Pentecost, and after more time than the tradition will let us know. When the Queen grew old beyond need, and the Church was ready to blossom forth. She, too, died. And her apostolic sons, given to her by Jesus, gathered around her, prayed, and wept. The last of that Holy Family now gone.

But the icons tell a different story. How, as she lay falling asleep, the walls of time and space parted, and her Son came to receive her into his arms. And she saw him, there, with Angels and Powers of all, singing her praise and the praise of the Son she bore. And as they turned to go, a man was there too. See the Son, Jesus, place his mother Mary’s hand in his father Joseph’s. That reunion was beyond all joys ever known. Then Joseph, Mary, and Jesus leave her house on earth together. For Christ does not leave us as we are, nor can the world be the same after.

The Holy Family is a sign of our rebirth, of our life beyond. True love – real love – changes not just two hearts, but the entire world, all space and time. Once upon a time is now: if you will but discern the path of real love.

A blessed feast!


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