On the Assumption

"The Lord Humbles the Proud and Raises the Humble"

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 19, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Aug. 15, the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In the heart of what the Latins called "feriae Augusti," August holiday, from which stems the Italian word "ferragosto" -- the Church celebrates today the Assumption of the Virgin into heaven in soul and body. In the Bible, the last reference to her earthly life is found at the beginning of the book of the Acts of the Apostles, which presents the Virgin Mary gathered in prayer with the disciples in the Cenacle in anticipation of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14).

Subsequently, a twofold tradition -- in Jerusalem and Ephesus -- attests to her "dormition," as the East says, that is, her "falling asleep" in God. That was the event that preceded her passage from earth to heaven, confessed by the uninterrupted faith of the Church. In the eighth century, for example, John Damascene, great doctor of the Eastern Church, established a direct relation between Mary's "dormition" and Jesus' death, affirming explicitly the truth of her corporal assumption. In a famous homily he wrote: "It was necessary that she who bore the Creator in her womb when he was a baby, should live with him in the tabernacles of heaven" (Second Homily on the Dormition, 14, PG 96, 741 B). As mentioned, this firm conviction of the Church found its crowning in the dogmatic definition of the Assumption, pronounced by my venerated predecessor Pius XII in the year 1950.

As the Second Vatican Council teaches, Mary Most Holy is always situated in the mystery of Christ and of the Church. In this perspective, "the Mother of Jesus, being in heaven, now glorified in body and soul, is the image and first fruits of the Church which will have its fulfillment in the age to come, now shines on the earth as a sign of sure hope and consolation for the people of God, pilgrims until the day when the Lord will return (cf. 2 Peter 3:10)" (Constitution "Lumen Gentium," 68). From paradise Our Lady always continues to watch over her children -- whom Jesus entrusted to her before dying on the cross -- especially in the difficult hours of trial. How many testimonies of her maternal solicitude one sees when visiting shrines dedicated to her! I am thinking especially at this moment of the singular world fortress of life and hope that is Lourdes, where, God willing, I will go in a month to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Marian apparitions that took place there.

Mary assumed into heaven shows us the ultimate end of our earthly pilgrimage. She reminds us that the whole of our being -- spirit, soul and body -- is destined to the fullness of life; that he who lives and dies in the love of God and of his neighbor will be transfigured in the image of the glorious body of the Risen Christ; that the Lord humbles the proud and raises the humble (cf. Luke 1:51-52). Our Lady proclaims this in eternity with the mystery of her Assumption. May you always be praised, O Virgin Mary!

[Translation by ZENIT]

[After the Angelus, the Pope said in English:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus prayer. As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, we are invited to raise our eyes to heaven and contemplate Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother. She who on earth believed in God's word is now glorified in body and soul. May Mary's prayers and example guide you always and renew your hearts in faith and hope. May God grant you and your families abundant blessings of peace and joy!

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