On 15 August, Catholics from around the world celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mahadi Buthelezi reflects how this feast day can inspire South Africans, and women specifically, to entrust our country and ourselves to Our Lady.
South Africa was placed under the patronage of Our Lady of the Assumption in 1952. In this women’s month as we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of our Lady into Heaven, we are also reminded of her joy upon receiving the news that she would bear a son who would be the saviour of the world, her sorrow of seeing her son being crucified, and seeing God’s Glory in the resurrection of her son, and finally her glorious assumption into heaven.
Her entire life was a constant “fiat” of saying yes to God’s plan. Catholics can draw inspiration from her life of prayerful journeying with God. For Catholic women, Our Lady’s Fiat is our fiat. We should strive to say “yes” to the joys, sorrows, and glorious moments of our lives, as did the Lady of the Rosary.
Mary’s life was one of deep prayer. I often wonder, do we — as the Catholic women of South Africa — pray enough for our country, its people and its future? This time of pandemic offers us an opportunity to petition Mary, Assumed into Heaven, Patroness of South Africa, to intercede for us to God for our country and its people.
This weekend’s Feast is also a reminder of how blessed we are as a country to have Mary intercede on our behalf. Through our prayers and our lives, we can as South Africa become a nation of leaders and citizens who are at the service of God and neighbour, and a nation where there is equality and justice regardless of gender.
In South Africa, we have a second opportunity to entrust our prayers to our patroness because the Feast of the Assumption is transferred to Sunday. Joined in prayer, we reflect on Mary’s life and through our own lives, may the Catholic women of South Africa use this opportunity to strive for greater emancipation for the women of our country:
O Immaculate Virgin, Blessed Mother of God, look down upon thy children gathered at thy feet. We know, O glorious Mother, how the sword of sorrow pierced thy heart when thy Son, Jesus died on Calvary before thine eyes. We rejoice that, for thy devoted life and sufferings bravely borne, Almighty God bestowed upon thee the reward of thy glorious Assumption.
Drawing inspiration from the teachings of the Assumption
The Feast of Mary Assumed into Heaven commemorates the end of Mary’s earthly life, her assumption into heaven, and her eternal freedom from the earthly limitations that would have been placed on her as a woman.
A frequently heard argument about the Feast of the Assumption is that there is no scriptural basis for it. Pope John Paul II noted that although Mary’s assumption is not documented in the bible, the New Testament “strongly emphasised the Blessed Virgin’s perfect union with Jesus’ destiny.” He notes how this union is manifested in Christ’s “miraculous conception,” Mary’s “participation” in his earthly ministry, especially his “redemptive sacrifice.” He therefore concludes that “Mary shares his heavenly destiny in body and soul.”
Pope Benedict, in a General Audience commemorating the feast of the Assumption (16 June 2006), reflected further on the lessons that this feast hold for us. Firstly, Benedict reminds us, is that “earth is not the definitive homeland for us either” and that by keeping our “gaze fixed on eternal goods, we will one day share in this same glory.”
This gaze, he says, allows us to not “lose our serenity, even amid the thousands of daily difficulties” and by placing our hope in Our Lady, the “luminous sign of Our Lady taken up into Heaven shines out even more brightly when sad shadows of suffering and violence seem to loom on the horizon.”
We take comfort that Mary “follows our footsteps with gentle concern” and “reassures us with her motherly hand” in the sadness and suffering of our own lives.
Joys, sorrows and glory of women in our own times
Women are lovingly created in the image and likeness of God. They are emotional, empathetic beings who give birth to new life. They also suffer the trials and tribulations of motherhood as the nurturers and educators of their children. They are a source of strength for their families and their communities.
Women also face the burden of having to juggle family and work. They struggle to stay on top of everything while maintaining a spiritual balance despite work injustices, depression, and the worries of job security and financial crisis created by the current COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to this, many women also suffer directly from gender-based violence and toxic patriarchy.
This pandemic has also exposed the gruesome violations of human rights across the globe and corruption of government and corporate officials who take advantage of the communities and the public they are meant to serve. All this negative news takes a toll on their physical and spiritual well-being.
Many are depressed not because something is wrong with us. We are depressed because something is wrong with the world, and we feel it deeply.
— Tears to Triumph: The Spiritual Journey from Suffering to Enlightenment, Marianne Williamson.
We need more positive stories to lift us up out of anxiety and depression. The Feast of the Assumption is the good news we need, knowing that our earthly burdens are not eternal. We experience joy and sorrow in equal measure, but if we keep our gaze fixed on Mary, she will calm our anxious spirits, so that with St. Paul we can say that we “can also glory in tribulations knowing that tribulations produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4).
May Our Lady lift us up in prayer, out of our economic, social, psychological and emotional depression and desolation to realise God’s Glory and splendour in our lives, to find peace, hope and love, and a sense of purpose to continue our earthly journey.
“Mary should be known, honoured, loved in all homes, communities and throughout the whole world.” This is the motto of the Immaculate Conception Sodality that originated in Lesotho. We echo these words, in their original Sesotho, as we pray that South Africa will also turn to Our Lady as the mother who guides and reassures us with her gentle hand.
Mme Maria a tsejoe, a hlomphwe, a ratwe malapeng, metseng, le ka lefatshe lohle!