The Assumption - sermon by Archbishop Lefebvre
Sermon preached by Archbishop Lefebvre at Ecône on 15th August 1990, translated into English, then preached again at St. Anne's Chapel, Leicester on 15th August 2022 by Rev. Robert Brucciani.
Assumption - Sermon by Archbishop Lefebvre
Almighty, everlasting God, Thou Who hast taken up the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of Thy Son, body and soul into heavenly glory, grant we beseech Thee, that ever intent on heavenly things, we may be made worthy to partake of her glory. (Collect of the Mass of the Assumption)
My dear brethren,
You will excuse the simplicity of this ceremony since - as you know - our seminarians are on holiday, and so it is you who will have to be the choir. But despite the simplicity of ceremony, we should celebrate in our hearts. The feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of her Assumption, is certainly one of the most beautiful feasts of Our Lady and is particularly the feast for the faithful, for those members of the Church who are still in via, who are still on their way to Heaven, because it is an occasion of great hope and great comfort.
Desire of the Church : our heavenly glory
If we look for the lesson that the Church gives us in her liturgy today, we will find it in the collect of the Mass. We have recited in the prayer the desire that the Church has for us: May we always be be intent on things above. What does this mean? That our bodies, our souls, our hearts be always directed ad superna cœlestia, towards heavenly things : Ipsius gloriæ mereamur esse consortes : that we may be made worthy to partake of her glory.
What better thing can the Church desire for us? What more effective advice can she give us? To have our eyes – that is to say, above all, to have our hearts – entirely directed towards the things of Heaven.
Obstacles to heavenly glory and the hope given by the BVM in heaven
And if this is something that is difficult for us, because we are afflicted by the consequences of original sin, because our soul is in some way blinded by material things, by sensible things that form a screen between us and Heaven (when they should be, on the contrary, a means for us to rise towards Heaven), then the one thought that helps us to look towards Heaven, it is that of the Blessed Virgin Mary [for she is a "heavenly thing", a "celestial being'].
And that is precisely why this feast of the Assumption fills us with hope, fills us with joy, and with encouragement – it is the thought of Mary triumphant, Mary glorious in Heaven, Queen of Heaven.
You remember that in the Gospel, on the occasion of the Ascension, it is said that the apostles looked up to Heaven. Our Lord had disappeared, but they were so attracted by the vision that their eyes remained fixed on Heaven, and how understandable that was. I think that if we too had witnessed the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, our eyes would have remained fixed on Heaven, with the hope of one day following our Mother.
Assumption proves that the BVM is a celestial creature
The Blessed Virgin is truly a celestial being, and the Good Lord has given proof of this by her Assumption. She is now radiant not only in her soul, but also in her body.
Other testimonies: apparitions
And it is a fact that every time the Blessed Virgin wanted to appear here on earth, those who had this great grace to see her, were in admiration before the splendour of the Blessed Virgin, before her light, before her radiance, before her heavenly state. And these children were so captivated by this vision that their senses were no longer exercised.
It is said that when Bernadette was in this state of ecstasy before the Blessed Virgin Mary, a candle flame was placed on her hand, and she did not even feel it, because she was so attracted by the beauty, the greatness, the sublimity of the image and the presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Other testimonies: Magnificat
Indeed, the Virgin Mary had extraordinary privileges. She can well say in her Magnificat: Fecit mihi magna qui potens est: "The Almighty has done great things in me", has done great things for me. Yes, indeed, it is hard to imagine that a creature could carry her God, could carry God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, in her bosom, as the Blessed Virgin Mary carried Him.
God remained God. Nothing changed in God. Nothing was changed in the Holy Trinity. God is immutable. And yet, He wanted to dwell in the womb of the Virgin Mary for nine months. What graces for this creature chosen in a very special way to be the Mother of Jesus Christ, the Mother of our Saviour. Mary is truly heavenly.
Other testimonies: devotion of the faithful
And besides, there is a great movement of the faithful in the Church in general, rushing to follow the Blessed Virgin Mary. Everywhere crowds of Catholics traditionally gathered on this feast, either making processions in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or going on pilgrimages.
Origin of the feast
The feast of the Assumption does not date from the proclamation of the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, that is, from 1st November 1950, when Pope Pius XII proclaimed that the Assumption of the Virgin Mary was a dogma, a truth that we must believe to be truly Catholic. No, the feast of the Assumption dates back to the time of the apostles and the best proof is seen in our cathedrals, in our churches, in our prayers – they all speak of the Assumption, of the Blessed Virgin.
Paintings are proof of this (the famous painting by Murillo that is in the museum in Madrid for example). Local feasts are proof of this: long before the proclamation of the dogma, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been celebrated, not least in 1638, when King Louis XIII consecrated France to the Blessed Virgin Mary on the day of the Assumption.
All these manifestations of the attachment of the faithful, the attachment of the Church to the Virgin Mary in her Assumption, were brought to a conclusion in the proclamation of the dogma by Pope Pius XII where, incidentally, I had the good fortune to be (that day in Rome).
How to realise our intent upon heavenly things
So, my dear brothers, what conclusions should we draw from these considerations on the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary? We have considered that the desire of the Church is that we be intent upon heavenly things. This intent on heavenly things is made easy by the fact the BVM is a heavenly thing, as proved principally in this feast of the Assumption, but also in apparitions, in the Magnificat (Scripture), public devotions and liturgy.
What conclusion must we draw? That we must do everything to direct our hearts towards Heaven, by directing our hearts to the Virgin Mary.
Practicing the "presence of Mary"
[One way this may be achieved is by practising "the presence of Mary." It works like this:] When we are at home, in our daily life, in our usual activities, we should be able to say to ourselves, that if the Blessed Virgin Mary were here now, she would be happy with what we do, what we think, what we see, and with what we love. We must live with the Blessed Virgin Mary and then we will truly be living for Heaven.
It is good to reflect and to do a little examination of conscience in this regard: "What would the Virgin Mary think if she were now present with me, seeing what I do, listening to what I say, seeing what I think, knowing what I love."
Think about allowing the Blessed Virgin Mary to be with you always, wherever you are. Wherever we are, may we live with our Mother. May she not be forced to leave us, because she cannot bear to stay.
This, I think, is the resolution we must make if we want to live with the Virgin Mary. And consequently to realise this vow that the Church has manifested in her prayer: May we always have our eyes turned towards Heaven.
What will the Virgin Mary teach us? She will teach us to be holy, as she was holy; to be pure, as she was pure; to love God as she loved Him. And to love above all her Son Jesus Christ.
And to teach us that there is no other God but Our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom the Father and the Holy Ghost reside. This is especially the great lesson that the Blessed Virgin Mary gives us. And this lesson is very important today, because Our Lord is set aside. Our Lord is put on a par with all religions.
The Blessed Virgin Mary cannot stand this. It is impossible! For her, there is only Our Lord Jesus Christ, her divine Son who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, who is the way to Heaven. There is no other. She came to give Him to the world. She was chosen to give Him to the world, this way, this path.
So let us ask the Virgin Mary to stay, to take us by the hand, to lead us, to be truly our Mother during this earthly life so that one day, as the prayer says, we may one day also share her glory in Heaven.