As I type this post many in the religious world are preparing to or have just celebrated and remembered the assumption of Mary. It is the celebration in honor of the moment when Mary was supposedly accepted into her eternal reward with God after her death. Typically this is celebrated or remembered on or around August 15th. It is a time to honor the bearer of the Christ child and her role in the unfolding of God’s plan to redeem and restore the creation.
I have never celebrated the Assumption of Mary. The faith tradition that I was raised in, and still serve in, has historically distanced itself from Mary. Mostly as a reaction to what it viewed as Mary worship in other faith traditions, it has often gone in the opposite direction to downplay the role of Mary as nothing more than just a regular human girl. Taking a day to remember and honor Mary would be viewed as wrong and opposed to God’s will. Rightly or wrongly, that was my understanding growing up.
And yet I wonder, why be so afraid to honor a great woman of faith who clearly played a pivotal role in the unfolding narrative of the world?
Last week, I sat in a Bible class as participant after participant marveled at the life of Mary. Individuals highlighted her faith, her strength, her willingness to accept God’s plan for her life. It was a reminder that this individual was a great woman of faith who should be honored and praised for her role in the plan of salvation. In so many ways she was just a regular person like you and me. There was nothing special or magical about her. And yet, she was clearly different because out of all the people in the world God chose her to be the one who would be the mother of Jesus. There was something about her that made her the favored one of God.
Mary had great faith. As far as the picture portrayed in scripture reveals, Mary never really questioned the task placed upon her. Sure, she asked the angel a few questions and then she went to spend time with Elizabeth to try to make sense of it all, but she did it with strength and determination. She responded to Gabriel by saying, “let it be to me according to your word.” After hearing Elizabeth proclaim that she was blessed among women, Mary responded in a great song of praise, thanking God that she was considered worthy enough to bear the Son of God. Few have accepted their role in God’s plan with the willingness and strength that Mary does. She should be revered as a hero of faith.
The reactions to Jesus’s birth would have also been interesting. Magi from the east come to bring gifts and worship the new-born King. When Jesus is presented in the Temple, both Simeon and Anna find the young child and speak highly of him. This was the moment they had waited for all their lives. Simeon even declares that Jesus will be the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel and that even Mary’s soul will be pierced with a sword because of the child. These experiences would have been strange, and while Mary ponders them in her heart, she also seems to accept them as part of the plan God has for her life. She does not run in fear from them or become too prideful. The strength that she displays, to accept what God has done without question seems hard to imagine. Maybe she had periods of doubt, but those are not revealed in the story. Instead, she is pictured as one willing to accept God’s call at any moment.
Mary’s role in the grand narrative is a vital one. She is more than just the bearer of the Messiah. She is a great woman of faith who God used to help bring about the redemption of the world. We are all in her debt for the role she played in the unfolding of the story.
I must admit, August 15th passed without me celebrating the assumption of Mary. It’s probably just a part of my upbringing I can’t get away from. Who knows, maybe next year I will. But I do know I spent alot of time last week remembering the life of Mary. I thank God for this great woman of faith. I thank God for the role she played in the redemption of the world. And I thank God for her strength, faith, and determination to live into the story because it has inspired me to do the same. We could learn alot from Mary, she is a true hero of faith.