We have now entered the month of August! As Catholics, we should be very excited about the days ahead in the liturgical calendar. For us in the Latin Rite, August 15 is the day we celebrate Mary’s Assumption into heaven. In the Eastern Rite of the Church, the Dormition of Mary is celebrated on August 14. Furthermore, on August 22, we will celebrate the Queenship of Mary. It is my plan to write on all of these important Marian feast days in August through this weekly series – Monday’s with Mary.
For today’s post, I have chosen some excerpts from a sermon given by St. Francis de Sales. The link to the left will provide you with information on this great and holy bishop who influenced the Church so greatly with his vast knowledge of theology that the Catholic Church elevated to him be a Doctor of the Church. He was a major figure in the Catholic Counter-Reformation that occurred in the 17th century and made an impact on the mystical life of the Church that had a renewal in the same century. He was also a teacher. As a high school teacher in the past, and now a college professor, I have a devotion to him and look to him for guidance and inspiration. When I was teaching high school, I had a quote of his on my bulletin board – “Bring me souls, away with the rest.” St. John Bosco named his order of priests after him – they are known as the Salesians. There is a Teacher’s Prayer to him as well.
This sermon from St. Francis de Sales was given on August 15, 1618. It covers the aspects of how the Blessed Mother completed the roles of Martha and Mary, her assumption into Heaven, how Our Lord destroyed the devil, the issues Martha had with her sister, how to practice virtue, and the great gift that Our Lord gave to his Blessed Mother as she entered Heavenly Glory. Since this sermon is long, the following are passages I selected for your reading pleasure and knowledge of the Assumption of Mary. As you shall find out, St. Francis de Sales is a mortalist. I will explain that term next week, but many of you should figure it out this week.
“But before speaking of her reception into Heaven, I must tell you how and by what manner of death she died (Treatise on the Love of God). You all know the history of her glorious death. Yet I always feel urged to dwell upon the mysteries we celebrate. Our Lady and most worthy Mistress died at 63, or rather fell asleep in the sleep of death. Some will wonder at this and say: How is it that Our Lord, who loved His Holy Mother so tenderly and so deeply, did not grant her the privilege of not dying? Since death is the penalty for sin and she had never committed any, why did He permit her to die?”
“O mortal, how different are your thoughts from those of the saints, how distant are you judgments from those of the Divine Majesty [Cf. Is. 55:8-9]: Do you not know that death is no longer ignominious but precious [Ps. 116:15], since Our Lord and Master allowed Himself to be attacked by it on the tree of the Cross. It would have not been an advantage nor a privilege for the Holy Virgin not to die, for she had desired death since she saw it in the arms and in the very heart of her most sacred Son. Death is so sweet and so desirable that the angels would consider themselves happy if they could die. And the saints have rejoiced to suffer death, which gave them much consolation, because our Divine Saviour who is our Life [Col. 3:4] had abandoned Himself as a prey to death.”
“When the hour came for the most glorious Virgin to leave this life, love made the separation of her soul from her body, death being only this separation. Her most holy soul went immediately to Heaven. For what, I ask, could have prevented it, since she was all pure and had never contracted the least stain of sin? What prevents the rest of us from going directly to Heaven when we die, as Our Lady did, is that almost all of us have dust or stains on our feet which must be washed away and purified in that place called Purgatory before we enter Heaven.”
“When the most holy soul of Our Lady left her most pure body, this body was carried to the sepulcher and returned to the earth like that of her Son. For it was most proper that the Mother should not have a greater privilege than the Son. But just as Our Lord rose at the end of three day, so did she rise at the end of three days, yet in a different manner, inasmuch as the Saviour rose by His own power and authority and Our Lady rose by the almighty power of God her Son, who commanded the blessed soul of His most holy Mother to be reunited to her body. Certainly it was very fitting that this most pure body should in no way be tainted by any corruption, since that of Our Lord had been drawn from her chaste womb and had reposed in it for nine months.”
“…And just as there was never such an abundance of perfumes seen in the city of Jerusalem as the Queen of Sheba carried with her when she went to visit the great King Solomon, who in exchange made her presents according to his greatness and royal magnificence [1 Kings 10:1-2, 10]; likewise, I say, never were there seen so many merits and so much love carried to Heaven by any pure creature s the most holy Virgin brought there at her glorious Assumption. In reward for this the eternal and great king, the Almighty God, gave her a degree of glory worthy of her greatness, and also power to distribute to her clients graces worthy of her liberality and magnificence. Amen.”
After reading such penetrating words from St. Francis de Sales, it is clear that his theological knowledge of Jesus Christ and Our Lady is great in magnitude. It is also clear why the Catholic Church elevated him to a Doctor of the Church. The fourth excerpt took my breath away, but especially these words – “since that of Our Lord had been drawn from her chaste womb and had reposed in it for nine months.”
Our Lady and Most Chaste Mother Assumed into Heaven…Pray for Us!