Sunday, August 15, 2010

A meditation with Corregio's Assumption of the Virgin

Holy Father, Benedict XVI says: "Mary is indeed the first fruit of the new humanity, the creature in whom the mystery of Christ - his Incarnation, Death, Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven - has ALREADY fully taken effect, redeeming her from death and conveying her, body and soul, to the Kingdom of immortal life."

As an aid to mediate on the Assumption I’d like to share with you a fabulous Late Renaissance fresco by Antonio Correggio. He painted this inside the dome of the Cathedral of Parma in Italy. Unlike other famous Assumption paintings, Correggio shows Mary cramped between a lot of human figures. This is to remind us that Mary is one among us. But, by virtue of her extrodinary creation, most intimate and radical discipleship of Christ while on earth, HE chose to honour her, after His ascension to the Father, with a share of his own unique power and glory.

So the Catholic Church teaches as an infallible Dogma - that “On her death, Mary was taken up body and soul into Heaven.” So Heaven is no longer a very remote place unknown to us. Because we have a mother in Heaven.


Mary has assumed body and soul into heaven – yeah – very nice – but how does it affect me? In his “Assumption of the Virgin” Correggio – hides within the Assumption story - another story. A story that plunges us into the very heart of the mystery of Mary’s assumption. A strange nude woman character to the top right of Mary – here she is:

Any idea who she is? The fruit she is holding will give you a clue – that is Eve! Why is Eve here?

St Iraneus – one of the early Fathers of the Church called Mary the “New Eve”. Now did you know Mary and Eve were exactly in the same state of the fullness of grace at birth! Many saints in their writings over the centuries show us – what Eve did with her original sin, Mary undid with her obedience & love. The same is true with Adam & Jesus – the new Adam.

So hidden within Correggio’s Assumption is a great encounter: The meeting of the two Eves. Notice Eve’s face - it is swollen with years of grieving. It is a face wrought with tears of repentance; her left hand on her chest is a sign of her sorrow. She seems to be offering up the forbidden fruit – her sin to Mary. It doesn’t hold any promise for her anymore – she knows she has been deceived. This is why we pray to Mary in the words: "To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve" (Hail Holy Queen) and "Before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful" (The Memorare)

This encounter then is deeply, deeply symbolic of the story of OUR life. This is the good news of Assumption for you and me: Cry out to Mary to help you give up the life of sin. Have you been trying to battle against sin and failed? Then look at your life - where is Mary there? Do you honour her in your life? This is the encounter which the Feast of Assumption demands. An encounter – if it happens in MY life - will change my life of sin FOREVER!

Offer yourself daily to her, cling to her closely that she may take your heart with her into heaven – even as she is assumed into eternity and plunge it into the very heart of the love of the Trinity.

Happy Feast of the Assumption to all!

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