The idea of a “Holy Day of Obligation” reflects a Christian Culture in which certain religious festivals were so significant that people would take the day off, rest, pray, gather with family and friends. Businesses and shops would close. Everyone would enjoy a “Sabbath-like” rest during the week. We still see some of this attitude to celebrate a national day of Thanksgiving and the Birth of Our Lord.
Sadly, in our secularist society, holy days are replaced by state holidays. Most of us get the day off to celebrate Labor Day – it is often not so easy to celebrate the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven. This Thursday is a Holy day of obligation. It is a grave sin to consciously decide to skip Mass. However, rather than focus on simply “not sinning,” perhaps Assumption day can be reclaimed as a blessed excuse to celebrate the “end of summer” with family and friends. Maybe you can’t take the whole day off, but go out to lunch with friends, take your children or grandchildren to get ice cream. Have a mid-week cookout.
I am leaving you with some of Sheen’s thoughts on the Assumption and maybe you can share them with your friends and family. The Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady is a great feast, worthy of a day of rest, prayer and celebration. Let’s take back a sense of the sacred-party in our busy world.
Msgr. Stanley Deptula
Executive Director, Archbishop Sheen Foundation
“Now in definition of the Assumption, it has to give hope to the creature of despair. Modern despair is the effect of a disappointed hedonism and centers principally around sex and death. The Assumption affirms not sex but Love. Love, like fire, burns upward, since it is basically desire. It seeks to become more and more united with the object that is loved. This ‘pull’ on our hearts by the Spirit of God is always present, and it is only our refusing wills and the weakness of our bodies as a result of sin which keep us earth-bound. If God exerts a gravitational pull on all souls, given the intense love of Our Lord for His Blessed Mother which descended, and the intense love of Mary for Her Lord which ascended, there is created a suspicion that love at this stage would be so great as ‘to pull the body with it.’ Given further an immunity from original sin, there would not be in the Body of Our Lady the dichotomy, tension, and opposition that exists in us between body and soul. If the distant moon moves all the surging tides of earth, then the love of Mary for Jesus and the love of Jesus for Mary should result in such an ecstasy as ‘to lift her out of this world.’ One thing is certain: the Assumption is easy to understand if one loves God deeply, but it is hard to understand if one loves not.
With one stroke of an infallible dogmatic pen, the Church lifts the sacredness of love out of sex without denying the role of the body in love. Here is one body that reflects in its uncounted hues the creative love of God. To a world that worships the body, the Church now says: ‘There are two bodies in heaven, one the glorified human nature of Jesus, the other the assumed human nature of Mary. Love is the secret of the Ascension of one and the Assumption of the other, for Love craves unity with its Beloved. The Son returns to the Father in the unity of Divine Nature; and Mary returns to Jesus in the unity of human nature. Her nuptial flight is the event to which our whole generation moves.’
Shall she, as the garden in which grew the lily of divine sinlessness and the red rose of the passion of redemption, be delivered over to the weeds and be forgotten by the Heavenly Gardener? Would not one communion preserved in grace through life ensure a heavenly immortality? No grown men and women would like to see the home in which they were reared subjected to the violent destruction of a bomb, even though they no longer lived in it. Neither would Omnipotence, Who tabernacle Himself within Mary, consent to see His fleshly home subjected to the dissolution of the tomb. Shall not the Divine Life go back in search of His living cradle and take that ‘flesh-girt paradise’ to Heaven with Him. She who is the mother of the Eucharist, escapes the decomposition of death.
Mary becomes the first human person to realize the historical destiny of the faithful as members of Christ’s mystical Body, beyond time, beyond death, and beyond judgment. By her Assumption she goes ahead like her Son to prepare a place for us. Mary always seems to be the Advent of what is in store for man. She anticipates Christ for nine months, as she bears Heaven within her; she anticipates His Passion at Cana and His Church at Pentecost. Now in the last great Doctrine of the Assumption, she anticipates heavenly glory, and the definition comes at a time when men think of it least.”
Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (The World’s First Love)