– Miguel Augusto (*)
The Church celebrates on 15 August the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady to Heaven. The Death/Dormition, Resurrection and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin form the threefold object of this celebration. In Macau, Bishop Stephen Lee has scheduled for this date a festive Mass around the Holy Mother of God which began at dusk.
The Sé Cathedral church, consecrated to Our Lady, hosted the festive mass which was celebrated in Chinese by Bishop Stephen Lee and was attended by numerous lay and religious faithful of the community. In prayer, all joined the Heavenly Mother in this remarkable day of the Catholic faith and Marian devotion, very present in the territory.
From 1849, several requests began to arrive at the Holy See in order for the Assumption of the Virgin to be declared a doctrine of faith. The dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary was then proclaimed by Pope Pius XII on 1 November 1950, with the publication of the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus declaring the Assumption of the Virgin Mary to Heaven to be a dogma of faith.
According to the tradition and theology of the Catholic Church, the Assumption of the Virgin is the celebration of the moment when the body and soul of Mary, Mother of the Lord, were glorified and taken to Heaven at the end of her earthly life. It is not to be confused with the Ascension, which refers to Jesus Christ (Acts 1:9).
It is said that the resurrection of bodies will take place at the end of time, but in the case of the Virgin Mary, this event was anticipated by a singular Divine privilege (see Catechism of the Catholic Church 966). The fact that Mary is already glorified in Heaven in body and soul is an anticipation of our own resurrection.
Many theologians (and Saint John Paul II) think that the Virgin died to resemble Jesus more, but others hold to the Dormition (Sleep) of the Virgin, celebrated in the East since the early centuries.
However, both positions coincide on one point: the Virgin Mary, by God’s special privilege, did not experience the corruption of her body and was joined to Heaven, where she reigns alive and glorious, together with Jesus.
Still within August, we have several celebrations and events around the Blessed Mary such as: on August 2 “Our Lady Queen of Angels”; on August 5 the feast of “Our Lady of the Snows,” and on August 22 “Our Lady Queen of Heaven and Earth”.
Our Lady of the Angels, Portiuncula
Sr Maria Lúcia, Superior of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady in Macau, spoke to O Clarim of the festivity in her Congregation saying: “On the 2nd of August, the Franciscan Family celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Angels. Mère Louise Mabille, the First Superior General of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady, placed the nascent Congregation under the special protection of the August Patroness of the Orders of our Father Saint Francis and determined that the solemnity consecrated to Our Lady of Angels should be celebrated everywhere with brilliance.” Sister Lúcia added: “Every day, in honor of our dear Mother, we recite the Rosary and pray or sing in all the Communities of the 16 countries where we are.”
A short distance from the spacious plain town of Assisi is the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels.
The first hermitage was built at the end of the year 325 AD by four pious hermits from Jerusalem, where they placed there, for the worship of the faithful, a relic of the tomb of the Blessed Virgin, brought from the Holy Land. They dedicated it to Mary, who was taken to Heaven by the Angels, and from this came the title “Our Lady Queen of the Angels.”
One hundred and sixty years after the hermitage was built, St Benedict found it abandoned and in ruins. He rebuilt, enlarged and embellished it. Because it was a small portion of the property owned by the Benedictines, it was called the church of the Portiuncula (piccola porzione).
St Francis of Assisi attended this small church as a child and, seeing it abandoned again and decaying, asked the Abbot to give it to him, in the year 1208. Having seen fulfilled his request, he restored it with his own hands. Then build a cell in his neighborhood, where he preferred to live. One day, hearing the Gospel of Holy Mass celebrated in this chapel, Christ’s recommendation to his disciples – not to carry money, saddlebags, or baton, he took such words as the norm of his life, and as the first Rule of the Order of Friars Minor.
The little church of the Portiuncula is famous, therefore, for having been the cradle of the Franciscan Order, including the Order of Santa Clara, founded by it, together with Saint Francis. But the main cause of the famous Chapel’s fame is the singular grace that St Francis has achieved.
In 1216, on a silent July night, St Francis, kneeling over the bare land, was absorbed in the deep sweetness of prayer. Suddenly, in the little church of the Portiuncula, where he prayed, a torrent of bright light spread like a great solar halo.
And in the midst of that warm golden light were the sweet figure of Jesus Christ and the smiling image of the Blessed Virgin, surrounded by a great multitude of Angels. They asked him what he wanted for the eternal salvation of souls. And without a moment of hesitation Francis said: “Most Holy Father, though I am miserable and sinful, I beseech you to grant ample and generous forgiveness with the complete remission of all their sins to all who repent and confess in this church.” Jesus accepted Francis’ prayer, but on one condition – that he would ask His Vicar on Earth for this indulgence.
St. Francis went to Pope Honorius III to obtain confirmation of how much Heaven had been granted him. After telling him what had happened, in the presence of some Cardinals, the Pope gave the indulgence.
The “consecration” of the church took place on August 2 of the same year 1216.
Our Lady of the Snows
By tradition, by the 4th century, a godly couple living in Rome had been blessed for their Christian upbringing and many material possessions. However, they had no children to share these gifts with.
For years, they prayed that the Lord would bless them with a son, to whom they left the entire inheritance, but they obtained no results. Finally, they decided to name Our Lady as an heiress and urged her to guide them.
In response, the Mother of God appeared to them on the night of August 4 – in midsummer – and told them that she wanted a Basilica on the Esquiline Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome, where she would send snow. Similarly, the Virgin Mary appeared to Pope Liberius with a similar message.
On August 5, as the summer sun shone, the city was amazed to see snow on the hill. The couple was happy to see what had happened, and the Pontiff did the same in solemn procession.
The snow covered the space that was supposed to be for the temple and then disappeared. Pope Liberius laid the first foundations of the Basilica on the perimeter he designed himself, and the couple contributed to the financing of the construction.
Later, after the Council of Ephesus, in which Mary was proclaimed as Mother of God (Theotokos), over the preceding Church, Pope Sixtus III built the present Basilica of Saint Mary Major. Over time, renovations, restorations, extensions and new constructions were made, but all in honor of the Blessed Virgin.
Our Lady, Queen of Heaven and Earth
On August 22, the Church celebrates Our Lady as Queen of Heaven and Earth, seven days after the day of her Assumption into Heaven.
This liturgical feast of Our Lady Queen was instituted by Pope Pius XII in 1954 when he crowned the Virgin in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, Rome (Italy), on October 11. At the time, the Pontiff also promulgated the main document of the Magisterium of the Church which talks about the dignity and royalty of Mary, the Encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam.
Initially, the celebration was established on 31 May, the month of Mary. It is now celebrated on the eighth day of the Assumption to manifest the connection between Mary’s royalty and her Assumption to Heaven.
We take this opportunity to remind our readers that on September 8, the Church celebrates the Nativity of Our Lady.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!