Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Feast of the Assumption

On Sunday we celebrated the feat of Mary's Assumption into Heaven. The pastor at my local parish gave an insightful homily about a painting by Annibale Caracci depicting the Assumption. I am including the painting and his homily as I thought it worth sharing.

I. Many paintings of the Assumption by the great Masters like Titian and Rubens show Mary floating upward carried by angels. Her eyes rolled up to heaven, her ties to earth...and us, almost completely severed. Peoplestanding below look up longingly, reaching to touch her robe-but it’s too late. Mary has already left them behind. In these kind of paintings Mary is our mother-but remote; she seems untouched by our pain and need, unaware of our dreams. The paintings are lovely but somehow emotionally unsatisfying; glorious but a little unnerving.

II. There is a less known painting of “the Assumption” by Annibale Caracci which hangs in the church of Santa Maria del populo in Rome-which fittingly means St. Mary of the people. In this painting Mary looks different. Like a brave woman who traveled a unknown wilderness in her life. She has a clear gaze and looks straight ahead into a horizon the viewer cannot see. She has the look of a woman who has studied the map and learned every twist and turn in the emotional and spiritual path of her inner life, yet knows she will arrive safely right on time. The Virgin’s arms are outstretched like wings in flight embracing other people in the picture, carrying them along. A young man enfolded in her robe, I assume St. John, gazes at her face in awe, but her own eyes remain fixed on her destination...and ours.

III. Caracci’s Assumption carries a strong message. This is a woman we can trust; her life is a model for our won. We may never suffer her challenge or loss, but we can meet our own with her strength and courage. God may not ask of us what He asked of Mary, but our “yes” can resonate just as courageously in the face of life’s trials. May is as real as the woman Caracci painted 400 years ago. Her robes are generous enough to enfold us. Her vision is clear enough to guide us; her heart big enough to embrace us.

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