I. — THE PASSING OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN OUT OF THIS WORLD
A Novena of Meditations and Readings for the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary begins here.
Let us consider how holy Mary passed from this world by a sweet and happy death. Three things render death bitter — attachment to the world, remorse for sins, and the uncertainty of salvation. Mary 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.
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, consider how precious was Mary’s death, on account of the special favours by which it was accompanied.
There are three things that 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.
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 that hath peace in his possessions! (Ecclus. xli. 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 St. Bernard remarks, worth purchasing at any price, however great. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord (Apoc. xiv. 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; who, like St. Francis of Assisi, find in God alone all their happiness, and with him can say: “My God and my All!”
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 always to live 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 St. 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.
St. John saw Mary represented in that woman, clothed with the sun, who held the moon under her feet. And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet (Apoc. xii. 1). Interpreters explain the moon to signify the goods of this world, which, like the moon, are uncertain and changeable. Mary never had these goods in her heart, but always despised them and trampled them under her feet; living in this world as a solitary turtle-dove in a desert, never allowing her affection to centre itself on any earthly thing; so that of her it was said: The voice of the turtle is heard in our land (Cant. ii. 12). And elsewhere: Who is she that goeth up by the desert? (Cant. iii. 6). Whence the Abbot Rupert says “Thus didst thou go up by the desert; that is, having a solitary soul.” Mary, then, having lived always and in all things detached from the earth, and united to God alone, death was not bitter, but, on the contrary, very sweet and dear to her; since it united her more closely to God in Heaven, by an eternal bond.