Today is the feast of the Assumption, that glorious day when we profess that Mary was taken, body and soul, into heaven. After Jesus himself, Mary was the first to experience a bodily resurrection. Why is this day so important? For two reasons:
1. First, because the glory of Mary, represented in the picture above by streaks of gold, does not belong to her. Mary never says anything is hers. On the contray, she professes that everything she has received - and that's certainly a great deal in her case - is a gift from God. She clothes herself in the glory of God, and points it back to him as the source. It is a surprising but true fact that the saints consider themselves the least worthy to recieve anything. This is not an immature or hypocritical understanding of themselves, where they believe humanity is intrinsically evil, on the one hand, or just posing as humble in order to gain compliments, on the other hand. Instead, they truly understand that God does not owe us anything, and all is gift. Mary, as the greatest of all the saints, most deeply understands this. She is our example, par excellence, of the saint who is grateful.
2. Secondly, she is proof that God keeps his promises. Jesus promised that all who follow him would partake of his eternal, blessed life in heaven. Mary, as the first and best follower of her Son, also reaps the reward. Very simply, we believe that God will do for us what he has done for Mary.
There's also one other reason for celebrating this day. In Mary's assumption, we have gained a Queen Mother. Although not a very widely understood position today, the role of Queen Mother was very important in the ancient world. The Queen Mother could always be trusted to have the ear of her son, the King. Why? Because the Queen was his mother and he loved her, so he listened to her. He could also trust her. A ruler never really knew just how trustworthy his court or confidants truly were. After all, there are so many stories of this son or that aristcrat trying to take over the throne throughout history. But the king could always, always trust his mother. She would never betray her love for her son. If she brought the concerns of the people to him, he would listen, out of respect and love for her. In Mary, we gain the same confidant and advocate, as she takes her place at the right side of the King of kings.
The painting above can be seen in the Chapel of the Assumption, on the campus of St. Mary's University in San Antonio. Mary is portrayed in mid-assumption, overwhelmed that she is being given this honor, and aware of the prayers and requests she takes with her to the royal court above. Her arms are outstretched in a gesture of submission, but also of suplication. Truly, today is a day of great celebration, above and on the earth!