martedì 15 agosto 2017

Signum certae spei et solatii

The Church has always seen in the woman of Revelation, adorned with the sun, the moon and the stars, the Blessed Virgin Mary. That is why many pictures of Mary Immaculate represent her with the moon under her feet and with her head surrounded by a crown of twelve stars. And that is why the liturgy of the Assumption has chosen this passage from the last book of the Bible as the first reading.

Nevertheless, scholars tell us that the woman of Revelation symbolizes God’s people in the Old and the New Testament: the Israel of old gave birth to the Messiah, and then became the new Israel, the Church, which suffer persecution by the dragon—the Devil. To be sure, Jesus was born of the people of Israel; but it is also true that he was begotten by the Virgin Mary. So, who is right?

There is no contradiction between the two interpretations: they are both true. There is a close connection between Mary and the people of God. She, too, belonged to the people of Israel; she is the Daughter of Zion; in the Tota Pulchra we call her Gloria Jerusalem (“the glory of Jerusalem”) and Laetitia Israel (“the joy of Israel”); the Second Vatican Council says that “she stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord, who confidently await and receive salvation from him” (Lumen Gentium, 55); we could consider her as the summit of the Israel of old, the most beautiful flower blossomed from the ancient people of God.

At the same time, Mary is the beginning of the new Israel, that is, the Church. We use different titles to express the place of the Virgin in the Church: first-fruits, model, exemplar, image, icon. She is a member, a unique member, the highest member of the Church. We can find this truth expressed in the first verse of the first reading: “God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.” The temple of God is the Church; the ark of the covenant, which is inside the temple (the temple was exactly built to keep the ark of the covenant), is the Blessed Virgin Mary, who carried in her womb the Son of God. In the temple of the Church, Mary is the Holy of Holies, the holiest place in the temple. Mary is the holiest member in the Church. In her, the Church has already reached its perfection.

That is why we have to turn our eyes to Mary: not only because she is our model to imitate, but also, and above all, because we can see in her what is our final destiny. She has already experienced what we are called to experience in turn. If she is holy, we are called to be holy. If, at the end of her life, she was glorified, not only in her soul but even in her body, it means that we, too, some day will be raised up, like Jesus and Mary.

For this reason, the Council first and then the liturgy consider the Virgin “a sign of sure hope and comfort” (signum certae spei et solatii) to us. Sometimes we could get discouraged, because we see ourselves unable to respond properly to our Christian vocation. It seems to us that what God asks of us is beyond our strength. Seeing that a human being is now in heaven, seated at the right hand of her Son, sharing in his glory, fills us with comfort and hope, since it means that it is not impossible for us to reach the same destination. Let us ask her to accompany us in our journey toward heaven.