Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Praying to Mary
Today, on the Solemnity of the Assumption, I want to reflect with you on the role that Mary played in Salvation History, and the role she continues to play in our lives.
Mary was the immaculately conceived one. She was the one who was always united to God from the first moment of her existence. She is the only one who could become the Mother of the Holy of Holies, giving the Second Person of the Trinity a human nature. Like Adam and Eve, she reflected the image and likeness of God to its fullness. Unlike Adam and Eve, she never turned from God. When, the first parents turned away from the Lord of Life, they turned to death. Mary never turned away from the Lord of Life. Death, therefore, the punishment earned by Adam and Eve, could not have a hold on Mary. Therefore, when Mary’s life on earth was completed, she was fully united to God in the way that God had planned for our first parents, united body and soul. That, in essence, is the celebration of the Assumption.
When Michelangelo painted the great fresco of the Last Judgment over the altar of the Sistine Chapel, he presented Christ as the judge of the living and the dead. The fresco, as I am sure you remember, depicts people in various states at the Judgment of Christ. Those on the bottom of the fresco are shown as being thrown into hell. This is so vividly painted that this part of the fresco makes us shudder, or at least consider whether we have to go to confession. There are those people above the damned who are pleading to the Lord. The angels are bringing up to heaven. These are the souls in purgatory. Around the Lord are the saints, each holding the sign of their witness to Christ. Closest to the Lord, Michelangelo painted Mary, assumed into heaven. She is so close to the Lord that she could whisper into his ear. And that is why we pray to her. We ask the one whose place in heaven is the closest to the King of Kings, to speak to him about our needs. Whisper into his ear, Mary, and ask him to shower our loved ones with his grace, ask him to protect us and our family from the attacks of the world, beg him to release us from all that is keeping us from his love.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, twelfth century doctor of the Church, meditated on Mary’s role in our lives and wrote many beautiful treatises on Mariology, or the study of Mary. The Memorare is attributed to him. This prayer expresses our conviction that Mary cares for us as a mother cares for her children. We need to be confident that she will whisper into her Son’s ear for us.
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.