Celebrating Hope: Dominic and the Assumption of Mary
Hope. It’s a word we hear a lot - it even became a campaign slogan - but do we really know what it is? It sounds good and on some level, we instinctively want it, but how can we get it? We can learn a lot about hope by looking to our Blessed Mother and our Holy Father Dominic.
Generally speaking, hope is a desire for a good that is difficult to obtain, with the expectation of eventually obtaining it.
As a supernatural virtue, like faith and charity, it is infused in us as a gift of God and by it we long for God and to spend eternity with Him. Hope motivates us to do acts of virtue, to seek God, to love and serve Him with the expectation that He will do what He has promised and grant us eternal happiness with Him. By supernatural faith, we “see” our ultimate target - God - and it is by hope and charity that we fly and soar to the heights.
We can also think of hope with this analogy: picture a toddler who wants to be picked up. They stand in front of their parent, looking up, reaching as high as they can, standing on tip-toe even. No matter how hard they try, they cannot get themselves in their parent’s arms, but they have the expectation that their parent will look down with kindness and lift them the rest of the way. Hope is that desire and expectation, and yet more. Because without God’s gift of hope, we would never look and reach up in the first place.
Our Blessed Mother’s assumption is a lesson in hope.
By this teaching of the Church - that at the time Mary’s life ended on earth, God granted her the privilege of not having to wait until the end of time for the resurrection of her body, but instead her body and soul were assumed into heaven - the glorious triumph of her Son Jesus over sin and death shines all the more brightly. Mary was granted singular graces not because she earned or deserved them, but solely due to God’s lavish gifts of mercy. She was uniquely chosen to walk in unity with the life and her Son, Jesus. And just as His body did not see the corruption of death, so too was Mary’s body preserved from this.
Mary’s assumption teaches us that our hope does not lie in the things of this world - our bodies and souls are destined to a loftier end: heaven.
Materialism, so prevalent in Western culture today, “threatens to extinguish the light of virtue and ruin the lives of men by exciting discord.”
-Pope Pius XII
Many monastics and saints have commented that our world would be much more peaceful if the words “mine” and “yours” ceased to exist. So many of today’s arguments, battles, and wars are over material goods that cannot add one moment to our life on earth, nor increase our true happiness. Some of the richest people in the world are also the most miserable. And that is one reason why our Holy Father Dominic urged his sons and daughters to “make your treasure from voluntary poverty.” Actual poverty frees a person from worldly cares because they have nothing to lug around or protect from damage or thieves. “Voluntary” poverty implies more than actual poverty – it requires a detachment of the heart from material goods, a true poverty of spirit. A person can be poor in fact and yet still chained by the desire to possess what they do not have. By choosing to be poor, a person not only renounces actual possession of goods, but also the desire to possess those goods. It is this detachment of the heart that makes it light enough to fly up to God.
Mary’s assumption reaffirms the dignity and beauty of the whole human person - body and soul.
While our ultimate destiny is not this world, we must also remember that God’s creation is good, including our bodies, because that is how God created. Yet, because of sin, “we groan…awaiting the redemption of our bodies.” Because we still labor under the effects of sin, we must discipline our bodies and emotions to put them in right relationship with our intellect and ultimately God. But we should not abuse our bodies – the human person is both body and soul. Our holy Father Dominic began his preaching mission in earnest when he encountered a heresy that denied the goodness of the created world, including the human body. Dominic preached tirelessly against this heresy and spent himself to help provide for the corporal needs of the poor, even to the point of selling all he had, including his books, to help feed starving people during a famine. Dominic also left us the heritage of his “Nine Ways of Prayer”, descriptions of how he prayed using body postures, gestures and his voice to praise God and intercede for others.
Mary’s assumption should stir our hearts to a stronger piety toward our heavenly Mother, and move us with the desire of sharing in the unity of Jesus Christ's Mystical Body.
That is, it should make us more receptive to God’s gift of hope. Because hope is a supernatural virtue, it is a gift. Yet, there are things we can do to make ourselves more receptive to it and to the extent we have it, we should exercise it. In his letter to the Romans, Saint Paul gives us a good place to start:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access [by faith] to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God.
Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.
- Romans 5:1-5
From this we see that the road of hope passes through affliction. Our Blessed Mother showed us how to walk in this path as she walked it with her Son, for she endured affliction all the way to the foot of the cross on Calvary. And the saints also light this way for us. When things are darkest, that’s when we should look up all the more and wait for the dawn with desire and expectation - God will keep His promises! As the psalmist sings,
Those who sow in tears
will reap with cries of joy.
Those who go forth weeping,
carrying sacks of seed,
Will return with cries of joy,
carrying their bundled sheaves.
May we increase our love for her who shows her motherly heart to all the members of this august body. And may our Mother Mary and holy Father Dominic intercede for us!