Discourse on the Feast of the Assumption

Meditation on the Death of Mary

On this day the Church celebrates, in honour of Mary, two solemn festivals; the first is that of her happy passage from this world; the second, that of her glorious Assumption into Heaven. In the present discourse we shall speak of her happy passage from this world; and in the next of her glorious Assumption.

How precious was the death of Mary! Firstly, on account of the special graces that attended it. Secondly, on account of the manner in which it took place. Death being the punishment of sin, it would seem that the Divine Mother—all holy, and exempt as she was from its slightest stain— should also have been exempt from death, and from encountering the misfortunes to which the children of Adam, infected by the poison of sin, are subject.

But God was pleased that Mary should in all things resemble Jesus; and as the Son died, it was becoming that the Mother should also die; because, moreover, He wished to give the just an example of the precious death prepared for them, He willed that even the most Blessed Virgin should die, but by a sweet and happy death.

Let us, therefore, now consider how precious was Mary’s death: first, on account of the special favours by which it was accompanied; secondly, on account of the manner in which it took place.

First point—There are three things which render death bitter: attachment to the world, remorse for sins, and the uncertainty of salvation. The death of Mary was entirely free from these causes of bitterness, and was accompanied by three special graces, which rendered it precious and joyful. She died as she had lived, entirely detached from the things of the world; she died in the most perfect peace; she died in the certainty of eternal glory.

And in the first place, there can be no doubt that attachment to earthly things renders the death of the worldly bitter and miserable, as the Holy Ghost says: “O death, how bitter is the remembrance of thee to a man who hath peace in his possessions!”(Eccl. 41:1).

But because the Saints die detached from the things of the world, their death is not bitter, but sweet, lovely, and precious; that is to say, as Saint Bernard remarks, worth purchasing at any price, however great. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” (Apoc. 14:13).   

Who are they who, being already dead, die? They are those happy souls who pass into eternity already detached, and, so to say, dead to all affection for terrestrial things; and who, like Saint Francis of Assisi, found in God alone all their happiness, and with him could say, ‘My God and my all.’ (Deum meus et omnia).

But what soul was ever more detached from earthly goods, and more united to God, than the beautiful soul of Mary? She was detached from her parents; for at the age of three years, when children are most attached to them, and stand in the greatest need of their assistance, Mary, with the greatest intrepidity, left them, and went to shut herself up in the temple to attend to God alone.

She was detached from riches, contenting herself to live always poor, and supporting herself with the labour of her own hands. She was detached from honours, loving an humble and abject life, though the honours due to a queen were hers, as she was descended from the kings of Israel.

The Blessed Virgin herself revealed to Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, that when her parents left her in the temple, she resolved in her heart to have no father, and to love no other good than God.

This article is taken from a chapter in The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus Liguori which is available from TAN Books.



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