(Written by Father Sanjeeb Kumar Nayak)
In today’s first reading from the book of Revelation, John, the presumed author of the book, is narrating about a woman with dazzling cloth and about to deliver a child, who would be the Saviour of the world. In the second reading, we hear from the First letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians that Jesus is the Saviour of the world because he conquered death by his death on the Cross. So it was Mary, the mother of Jesus about whom it is said in today’s first reading.
The Son, born of a woman (Mary) becomes our Redeemer and this Redeemer, Jesus Christ, our Lord has given us his beloved mother to be our mother as well. When we celebrate the feast of the Assumption, let us ask ourselves a few questions- Who is this woman for us? Why Jesus had to give his mother to our mother? and what can she do or does for us?
The first question: Who is this woman (Mary) for us? We all very well know she is the daughter of Saints. Joachim and Anne. She was a very religious and pious girl. In St. Luke’s gospel we see Mary was betrothed to Joseph. One day the Archangel Gabriel surprised Mary with a very astonishing and overwhelming and at the same fearful greeting: “Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28). So Mary is a person full of graces. It is acknowledged neither by her parents nor by any humans but by Archangel Gabriel himself who brought this “good tiding” to Mary from God that through the power of the Holy Spirit she would conceive and give birth to the Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ our Lord. She is simple and yet not an ordinary woman. She is a person, whom the Lord has shown favor and is pleased to give through her the Saviour of the world (CF Lk 1:46-48).
The second question: Why Jesus had to give his mother to us? In St. John’s gospel we read: “Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home” (Jn 19:25-27). From this, we are sure that Jesus himself has given his mother to be our mother. Now the question is why did he give her to us? The answer is: because she is “full of grace”, “the Lord’s favored one” (Lk1:1:28) and we need graces and favor from God for our lives. Jesus gave his mother to be our mother. Jesus did not just give Mary but he gave us a person “full of grace”. God has vested graces on Mary. So it is up to each one of us how and what we need to do in order to receive graces from God through Mary. She is taken up to heaven and is eternally there. Thus she becomes our Heavenly Mother for eternity. She is taken into heaven and is made the Queen of heaven as proclaimed in the fourth and fifth mysteries of the Glorious Mystery of the Rosary. That is why we celebrated today this great feast of Assumption with great love and devotion.
The third question: What can she do or does for us?
Among many other stories, here is a story told about Mother Mary. When St. Andrew died, he went to heaven and looked for Mother Mary. He could not find her anywhere in heaven. Being surprised he asked other apostles why she was not found in heaven and they replied she has gone to the world to help her other children.
It is very obvious that a person who is “full of grace” and in God’s favor, can do wonders. That is what Mother Mary does for us so far. Through various apparitions, Mary is trying to invite people to pray the Rosary and other prayers in order to receive God’s graces through hey intercessions. Since she is vested with graces, if we seek her help to intercede for us to God, our petitions will be easily heard and granted. Thus, Mary is not using the favors or privileges for herself. Rather, she trying to help needy human beings.
This is why the Catholics revere and honor Mary as opposed to other denominations. I would like to put a challenge to them by asking a few questions: when God himself honors and glorifies Mary, why not we? and who are we to criticize Mary and her role in salvation history and human history? If God chose Mary to give birth to the Saviour of the world, who are we to question God?
Often times some people are brainwashed regarding Mary by the people, who do not accept Mary in their lives. Or they just want to be different from the Catholic church for personal gain, name, and fame. We are all called to build the Kingdom of God and not to destroy it.
A brief history of the blessing of the ocean:
On this auspicious and holy occasion, in many parts of the world, the oceans are blessed. It is called “Blessing of the Ocean” or “Wedding of the Sea”. There are two traditions which are believed to be behind this practice for hundreds of years.
One tradition says: the Wedding of the Sea probably has its roots in the Italian military and commercial history going back to 1000 A.D.
Specifically, it is noted that in the Venice of that era, Pope Alexander III, was grateful for the Venetian Navy’s role in driving pirates away from the Adriatic Sea.
As a sign of his gratitude, the Pope gave a ring, legend has it that it was his very own papal ring, to the Doge of Venice who threw it into the sea as a gesture of respect for and loyalty to the Pope and his sovereignty. Thus was born the “marriage” that this ceremony will recognize.
“At the conclusion of the ceremony, lifeguards will row out the wreath far enough into the Atlantic so it will not drift back, whose ring-like shape is reminiscent of the original ring given by the pope to the doge hundreds of years ago”. (Taken from the website: https://www.capemaycountyherald.com/community/religion/article_2643da8c-4125-11e5-ab10-c37ab5ef35dd.html).
Another tradition says: In the church, followed by the ritual procession to the ocean for the annual blessing.
This ritual dates back to 1445, when the bishop of Cervia, Italy, was on board in a ship when a storm arose. The bishop threw his pastoral ring into the water and prayed to calm the sea. The raging storm stopped and a tradition of tossing a “ring” of flowers into the ocean as a blessing was born. This beautiful Mass and ceremony always draw a huge crowd, and all are welcome to attend. (Taken from the website: https://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/currents_gazettes/brigantine/st-thomas-parish-news—blessing-of-the-sea/article_725f9670-e920-595a-a7ee-b004aadf21b6.html).
Whatever may be the traditions, what is believed and what is important is that people, with good faith, practice it in order to receive some favors from God specially, the favor of healing. Water is a great and natural source of healing and purification. When the ocean is blessed, blessed along with it are the creatures of the ocean, safety and security of the people in the ocean, traveling or fishing or taking a ride and people who are at the beach on a sunny day enjoying and experiencing the numerous gifts of God.
On this day St. Damien Parish, Ocean City, New Jersey, organizes mass for the people, who come from different parts of America and a solemn procession to the beach with Rosary prayers, singing Marian hymns and carrying banners and a statue of Mother Mary is conducted. The members of the Legion of Mary of St. Damien parish organize and take care of the whole ceremony. It is a very nice experience.
Mother Mary, Star of the Sea, pray for us!