The Assumption of the Virgin Mary
In this beautiful homily for The Assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven, Year C, Father Hanly explains the importance of the Feast of the Assumption.
Readings for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven, Year C
- First Reading: Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6, 10
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 45:10, 11, 12, 16
- Second Reading: First Corinthians 15:20-26
- Gospel: Luke 1:39-56
I’m sure many of you remember when the Feast of the Assumption began for all of us. It was in the year 1950. In 1950, Pope Pius XII declared in Rome, after many, many months and even years of asking all the bishops of the world to be a part of the declaration of this dogma and the dogma is, of course, the Assumption of Mary.
The Assumption of Mary means that Mary, after her death, was taken up soul and body — just as her Son Jesus was — to her heavenly reward.
Many people thought this was a new doctrine for the Catholic Church, but it wasn’t. It’s been in the liturgy since the year 300 or even earlier — as far as we have records to show.
In the East, it was called the Dormition of Mary. Dormition is dormitory – it means ‘to sleep’. It means the sleep of Mary. And if you look at the icons all the way back to the 13th, 14th and even earlier centuries in the East, you’ll see these lovely icons, very large, hanging down maybe 10 or 12 feet in length, and it would be the Dormition of Mary.
And at the bottom you would see the disciples or the apostles gathered together with great, mournful faces. And the body of Mary is laying outside on a tomb.
Then you have the next step — because the icons are not limited by time and space — the next step you see this little Virgin figure going up to Jesus. And it’s the sign that Jesus is taking his mother’s soul from her and bringing her up.
And then behind that you have angels. And the angels now are high above. And the Father is there to welcome her. But He is now welcoming not just the soul, He is welcoming Mary herself.
These gigantic icons are giving the feeling, and putting down in painting, the Church’s teaching that was at the very beginning, that because of Mary, when her Son died and ascended into heaven in his own power, that when his mother died, he himself came down and brought her home, body and soul, into the eternal life of he and his Father.
Why did it take so long in 1950 to come upon this wonderful teaching and bring it forth in a very forceful manner by Pius XII, so many centuries, even though we had been proclaiming this for centuries, but to reinforce it, why was it so important?
Because if you remember 1950, you will know the Second World War had finished. It was a terrible war. It was the worst war in the history of mankind. It didn’t just throw soldiers against soldiers killing each other for six, seven years if you go all the way back to the war beginning in China. It destroyed whole cities and towns and it ended with a great atomic bomb that could have destroyed the whole world.
And at the end of it, instead of peace and joy, there was the threat of new powers arising and saying, well now we must not trust those people, we must gather our forces again.
And the Pope said enough is enough.
And so what he did was he made a statement, a symbolic statement that mankind is not garbage, that mankind — even in his worst moments — is made in the image of God.
And that Jesus became man, not because man was terrible and awful and should be destroyed, but so that man might know his true dignity, his true worth, his true value that nothing could destroy because that worth and dignity and value came from God Himself. And that would not be taken away from mankind.
And who could symbolise this better than Mary, the little girl of Nazareth, totally human just like you and I, not the daughter of a God, and she was the one who in her life and in her saying “yes” to God to become the mother of Jesus the Messiah, she was the one who carried with her, soul and body for all eternity, the greatness of humanity.
The importance of people recognising this true greatness and stop dealing with each other as if it was a matter of conflict and war and hatred — this is the garbage. Yes, it is the garbage that we spew about.
But one thing cannot be taken away, and that is we love, we care, we sacrifice, we believe. This will never perish, never die from the earth, and it will be because of the little Virgin of Nazareth saying “Yes!” when the angel came and asked her if she was willing to become the mother of the Messiah.
And so the Assumption is not just Mary ascending from the grave, or not just saying that if Jesus rose from the dead, certainly Mary his mother would also rise from the dead, but it is the hope, it is the longing, it is the affirmation of God that what happened to Jesus and happened to Mary the Mother will happen to all of us.
For our destiny is not pitting ourselves against each other. It’s not in wild competition. It’s not in the destruction of all the good things this world has stood for since the beginning of time when God made it. And Satan does not gain the victory.
It is the people who follow Jesus, who follow their hearts, who follow the goodness of mankind, who recognise it, who live by it, who work through it, who often sin and fall and have their problems but come back because God’s forgiveness is so great and God’s forgiveness is so full.
And so today we celebrate ourselves. We celebrate the greatness of humanity, not the greatness of competition or who wins the game.
It’s the greatness that man, despite everything, can come back in faith, not in God – God doesn’t need our faith – faith in each other, faith that no matter what happens we can overcome it with the great gift of God which is to believe in each other, to care for each other, to love each other.
And no matter how many times we see it spoiled and despoiled and all the nonsense that goes through each person’s life in every day, we remain totally and completely positive that mankind was created by God, not for just now, not for just this day, not to be chasing after things that are not worth his time and effort, but he is here because he is created and given the life of God Himself.
And that life means to learn how to love and to learn how to care, to learn how to forgive, to learn how to face anger with kindness, to face despair with a deep and lasting hope that it is God’s will that ultimately will be done.
And so, all the little things that we do and all the little efforts that we make is, once again, an example to the world that God is among us, that God is here, that Jesus did not die for nothing.
And that Mary who follows Jesus now takes up a new world, a new relationship, and that relationship is with her Son.
She is with us all the time. And she is with us to help us, to be with us, to care for us. And, of course, we take it for granted.
When I was a little boy, we always used to say, “Go to Mary first, because whatever she says to her Son, her Son has to give you.”
It’s a child’s prayer – Jesus never refuses what his mother wants him to do – a child’s.
But it’s much more than that, it is the belief that we are here because God has created us and made us for all eternity.
Before ending this, I’d just like to read a few things that I picked out from, most of them are from very famous women, and they’re all talking about Mary and what it means to have Mary among us, as we have Jesus.
The first one is from Therese of Lisieux, ‘The Little Flower’, and this is her poem in honour of Mary:
“I know that at Nazareth, Virgin full of grace,
you lived very poorly without asking for anything more.
Neither ecstasies, nor miracles, nor other extraordinary deeds enhanced your life, O Queen of the elect.
The number of the lowly, the “little ones,” is very great on earth
They can raise their eyes to you without fear.
You are the incomparable Mother
who walks with them along the common way
to guide them to heaven.”
The next one is from Caryll Houselander. My mother, when I was a young man, gave me the collected works of Caryll Houselander. She was an English layperson who was very shy and quiet, and she looked terrible when you saw her picture, but she could write beautifully about Mary, and this is one of the things that she says:
“Our Lady said yes to the angel who requested she become the Mother of God; and in saying yes, she says yes for the whole human race. She says yes for each one of us, and each one of our lives must echo that yes for our whole lifetime. We are all asked if we will surrender what we are, our humanity, our flesh and blood, to the Holy Spirit and allow Christ to fill the emptiness formed by the particular shape of our life.”
This one is a quote by a man, and I chose it because he’s Pope John Paul I. Remember Pope John Paul I? “He lived but an hour and passed before the day was over” – he was Pope for about a month. And this is one of the lovely things he writes in the Spirit of Mary, because Mary’s Spirit is doing great things for God in small ways. And this is what he wrote a few months before he died:
“I write of commonplace love. Often it is the only kind possible.
“I have never had an opportunity to throw myself into the waters of a rushing stream to save someone whose life was in danger. Very often I have been asked to lend something, to write a letter, to give simple little directions.
“I have never run into a mad dog in the street. On the other hand, I have encountered any number of tiresome flies and mosquitoes.
“I have never had persecutors who beat me, but many people disturb me by speaking too loud in the street or by turning up the volume of their television sets, or even by making certain noises while eating their soup.
“To help others as best as you can, to avoid losing your temper, to be understanding, to keep calm, and smiling on these occasions as much as possible, this is loving your neighbour, without fancy talk, but in a practical way.
“Commonplace love often is the only kind possible.”
This next one speaks about Mary’s role. Her name is Megan McKenna. She is a very famous theologian now in certain circles and has written thirty books and started off just a simple teacher. And this is from one of her books called ‘Mother to All, Mother Forever: Four Weeks with Mary of Nazareth’. And this one reminds us of Mary’s present role in the world and it’s the final words in one of her books. And it goes:
“Mary comes to this land and reminds us vividly of those who need the most attention and care: the weak, the sick, the elderly, the cast-offs, the babies and women, the broken and the bent, those afflicted and impoverished by others. Mary is mother to all, and she cares most for those who share her experience of poverty, misery, human suffering, and injustice. She lived in poverty, in the midst of violence, when political intrigues swallowed whole peoples without concern, under the shadow of slaughter and oppression. When Mary appears, it is to remind us that devotion to her is dangerous to any existing form of power or structure or individuals that treat other human beings as worthless, expendable, or as enemy. She appears in history to remind Christians that those who call themselves her children must be brothers and sisters to all her children.”
Today we celebrate the feast day of the Glorification of Mary. The Glorification in the Scriptures has only one meaning – she is here to teach us what we really are and not to be afraid to be the goodness and the greatness and the loving carefulness that God has created for us, not to be afraid to be yourself, and never to be afraid to be a caring human being.
FAQ for Homily for The Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Year C
|When is The Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Year C, in 2025?||15th August 2025|
|What is the title of Father Hanly’s homily for The Assumption, Year C?||"The Assumption of the Virgin Mary"|
|What is the next homily by Father Hanly in this Liturgical Cycle? ||20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C|
|Who was Father Hanly?||Father Denis J. Hanly was a Maryknoll Missionary|
|How can we find other homilies by Father Hanly?||By Liturgical Calendar or by topic or by title|
Information about Father Hanly’s homily for The Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Year C
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Father Hanly's sermon for The Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Year C, "The Assumption of the Virgin Mary" was delivered on 15th August 2010. It is sometimes hard to accurately transcribe Father Hanly's reflections, so please let us know if you think we have made a mistake in any of our transcripts, and let us have your suggestions.
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