This Friday (August 15), is the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and is a holy day of obligation for Catholics, everywhere.
The following is an account of the burial and assumption of Our Blessed Mother, according to Venerable Mary of Agreda in The Mystical City of God. (1)
THE BURIAL OF THE SACRED BODY OF THE MOST BLESSED MARY
"In order that the Apostles, the disciples, and many others of the faithful might not be too deeply oppressed by sorrow, and in order that some of them might not die of grief caused by the passing away of the most blessed Mary, it was necessary that the divine power, by an especial providence, furnish them with consolation and dilate their heart for new influences in their incomparable affliction.
"For the feeling, that their loss was irretrievable in the present life, could not be repressed; the privation of such a Treasure could never find a recompense. And as the most sweet, loving, and amiable intercourse and conversation of their great Queen had ravished the heart of each one, the ceasing of her protection and company left them as it were without the breath of life. But the Lord, who well knew how to estimate the just cause of their sorrow, secretly upheld them by his encouragements and so they set about the fitting burial of the sacred body and whatever the occasion demanded.
"Accordingly the holy Apostles, on whom this duty specially devolved, held a conference concerning the burial of the most sacred body of their Queen and Lady. They selected for that purpose a new sepulchre, which had been prepared mysteriously by the providence of her divine Son. As they remembered, that, according to the custom of the Jews at burial, the deified body of their Master had been anointed with precious ointments and spices and wrapped in the sacred burial cloths. They thought not of doing otherwise with the virginal body of his most holy Mother.
"Accordingly they called the two maidens, who had assisted the Queen during her life and who had been designated as the heiresses of her tunics, and instructed them to anoint the body of the Mother of God with highest reverence and modesty and wrap it in the winding-sheets before it should be placed in the casket.
"With great reverence and fear the two maidens entered the room, where the body of the blessed Lady lay upon its couch ; but the refulgence issuing from it barred and blinded them in such a manner that they could neither see nor touch the body, nor even ascertain in what particular place it rested. In fear and reverence still greater than on their entrance, the maidens left the room; and in great excitement and wonder, they told the Apostles what had happened. They, not without divine inspiration, came to the conclusion that this sacred Ark of the Covenant was not to be touched or handled in the common way.
"Then Saint Peter and Saint John entered the oratory and perceived the effulgence, and at the same time they heard the celestial music of the angels, who were singing: 'Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with'. Others responded: 'A Virgin before childbirth, in childbirth and after childbirth.'
"From that time on many of the faithful expressed their devotion toward the most blessed Mary in these words of praise, and from them they were handed down to be repeated by us with the approbation of the holy Church. The two holy Apostles, Saint Peter and Saint John, were for a time lost in admiration at what they saw and heard of their Queen, and in order to decide what to do, they sank on their knees, beseeching the Lord to make it known. Then they heard a voice saying: 'Let not the sacred body be either uncovered or touched.'
"Having thus been informed of the will of God, they brought a bier, and, the effulgence having diminished somewhat, they approached the couch and with their own hands reverently took hold of the tunic at the two ends. Thus, without changing its posture, they raised the sacred and virginal Treasure and placed it on the bier in the same position as it had occupied on the couch.
"They could easily do this, because they felt no more weight than that of the tunic. On this bier, the former effulgence of the body moderated still more, and all of them, by disposition of the Lord and for the consolation of all those present, could now perceive and study the beauty of that virginal countenance and of her hands.
"As for the rest, the omnipotence of God protected this his heavenly dwelling, so that neither in life nor in death any one should behold any other part except what is common in ordinary conversation, namely, her most inspiring countenance, by which She had been known, and her hands, by which She had labored.
"So great was the care and solicitude for his most blessed Mother, that in this particular He used not so much precaution in regard to his own body, as that of the most pure Virgin. In Her Immaculate Conception He made Her like to Himself; likewise at her birth, in as far as it did not take place in the common and natural manner of other men. He preserved Her also from impure temptations and thoughts.
"But, as He was man and the Redeemer of the world through his Passion and Death, He permitted with his own body, what He would not allow with Hers, as that of a woman, and therefore He kept her virginal body entirely concealed. In fact, the most pure Lady during her life had Herself asked that no one should be permitted to look upon it in death, which petition He fulfilled.
"Then the Apostles consulted further about her burial. Their decision becoming known among the multitudes of the faithful in Jerusalem, they brought many candles to be lighted at the bier, and it happened that all the lights burned through that day and the two following days without any of the candles being consumed or wasted in any shape or manner.
"In order that this and many other miracles wrought by the power of God on this occasion might become better known to the world, the Lord himself inspired all the inhabitants of Jerusalem to be present at the burial of his most blessed Mother, so that there was scarcely any person in Jerusalem, even of the Jews or the gentiles, who were not attracted by the novelty of this spectacle.
"The Apostles took upon their shoulders the sacred body and the tabernacle of God and, as priests of the evangelical law, bore the Propitiatory of the divine oracles and blessings in orderly procession from the Cenacle in the city to the valley of Josaphat. This was the visible accompaniment of the dwellers of Jerusalem.
"But besides this there was another invisible multitude, that of the courtiers of heaven. It was composed of the thousand angels of the Queen, continuing their celestial songs, which were heard by the Apostles and disciples and many others, and which sweetly continued for three days.
"In addition to these many other spirits had descended from heaven, namely, many thousands or legions of angels with the ancient Patriarchs and Prophets, among whom were saint Joachim, saint Anne, saint Joseph, saint Elisabeth and the Baptist and numerous other saints, who were sent by our Savior Jesus to assist at the exequies and burial of his most blessed Mother.
"In the midst of this celestial and earthly accompaniment, visible and invisible, the Apostles bore along the sacred body, and on the way happened great miracles, which would take much time to relate. In particular all the sick, of which there were many of the different kinds, were entirely cured. Many of the possessed were freed from the demons, for the evil spirits did not dare to wait until the sacred body came near the persons thus afflicted.
"Greater still were the miracles of conversions wrought among many Jews and gentiles, for on this occasion were opened up the treasures of divine mercy, so that many souls came to the knowledge of Christ our Savior and loudly confessed Him as the true God and Redeemer, demanding Baptism.
"Many days thereafter the Apostles and disciples labored hard in catechizing and baptizing those, who on that day had been converted to the holy faith. The Apostles in carrying the sacred body felt wonderful effects of divine light and consolation, in which the disciples shared according to their measure.
"All the multitudes of the people were seized with astonishment at the fragrance diffused about, the sweet music and the other prodigies. They proclaimed God great and powerful in this Creature and in testimony of their acknowledgment, they struck their breasts in sorrow and compunction.
"When the procession came to the holy sepulchre in the valley of Josaphat, the same two Apostles, saint Peter and saint John, who had laid the celestial Treasure from the couch onto the bier, with joyful reverence, placed it in the sepulchre and covered it with a linen cloth, the hands of the angels performing more of these last rites than the hands of the Apostles.
"They closed up the sepulchre with a large stone, according to custom at other burials. The celestial courtiers returned to heaven, while the thousand angels of the Queen continued their watch, guarding the sacred body and keeping up the music as at her burial.
"The concourse of the people lessened and the holy Apostles and disciples, dissolved in tender tears, returned to the Cenacle. During a whole year, the exquisite fragrance exhaled by the body of the Queen was noticeable throughout the Cenacle, and in her oratory, for many years. This sanctuary remained a place of refuge for all those that were burdened with labor and difficulties; all found miraculous assistance, as well in sickness as in hardships and necessities of other kind. After these miracles had continued for some years in Jerusalem, the sins of Jerusalem and of its inhabitants drew upon this city, among other punishments, that of being deprived of this inestimable blessing.
"Having again gathered in the Cenacle, the Apostles came to the conclusion that some of them and of the disciples should watch at the sepulchre of their Queen as long as they should hear the celestial music, for all of them were wondering when the end of that miracle should be. Accordingly, some of them attended to the affairs of the Church in catechizing and baptizing the new converts; and others immediately returned to the sepulchre, while all of them paid frequent visits to it during the next three days.
"Saint Peter and saint John, however, were more zealous in their attendance, coming only a few times to the Cenacle and immediately returning to where was laid the treasure of their heart. Nor were the irrational creatures missing at the exequies of the Mistress of the universe, for as the sacred body arrived near the grave, innumerable large and small birds gathered in the air, and many animals and wild beasts rushed from the mountains toward the sepulchre, the ones singing sorrowfully, the others emitting groans and doleful sounds and all of them showing grief in their movements as if mourning over the common loss. Only a few unbelieving Jews, more hardened than the rocks and more impious than the wild beasts failed to show sorrow at the death of their Restoratrix, as they had failed to do also at the death of their Redeemer and Master."
MARY ENTERS HEAVEN, THEN RETURNS TO RESUSCITATE HER SACRED BODY
"Our Redeemer Jesus entered heaven conducting the purest soul of his Mother at his right hand. In this light the Redeemer himself presented Her before the throne of the Divinity, and speaking to the eternal Father in the presence of all the blessed, who were ravished at this wonder, the most sacred humanity uttered these words:
Eternal Father, my most beloved Mother, thy beloved Daughter and the cherished Spouse of the Holy Ghost, now comes to take possession of the crown and glory, which We have prepared as a reward for her merit. She is the one who was born as the rose among thorns, untouched, pure, and beautiful, worthy of being embraced by Us and of being placed upon a throne to which none of our creatures can ever attain, and to which those conceived in sin cannot aspire.
This is our chosen and our only One, distinguished above all else, to whom We communicated our grace and our perfections beyond the measure accorded to other creatures, in whom We have deposited the treasure of our incomprehensible Divinity and its gifts, who most faithfully preserved and made fruitful the talents, which We gave Her, who never swerved from our will, and who found grace and pleasure in our eyes.
My Father, most equitous is the tribunal of our justice and mercy, and in it the services of our friends are, repaid in the most superabundant manner. It is right that to my Mother be given the reward of a Mother, and if during her whole life and in all her works She was as like to Me as is possible for a creature to be, let Her also be as like to Me in glory and on the throne of our Majesty, so that where holiness is in essence, there it may also be found in its highest participation.
"This decree of the incarnate Word was approved by the Father and the Holy Ghost. The most holy soul of Mary was immediately raised to the right hand of her Son and true God, and placed on the royal throne of the most holy Trinity, which neither men, nor angels nor the seraphim themselves attain, and will not attain for all eternity.
"This is the most exalted and super eminent privilege of our Queen and Lady, that She is seated on the throne with the three divine Persons and holds her place as Empress, while all the rest are set as servants and ministers to the highest King. To the eminence and majesty of that position, inaccessible to all other creatures, correspond her gifts of glory, comprehension, vision and fruition; because She enjoys, above all and more than all, that infinite Object, which the other blessed enjoy in an endless variety of degrees.
"She knows, penetrates, and understands much deeper the eternal Being and its infinite attributes. She lovingly delights in its mysteries and most hidden secrets, more than all the rest of the blessed. Although between the glory of the divine Persons and that of the most holy Mary there is an infinite distance, for the light of the Divinity, as says the Apostle (I Tim. 6, 16), is inaccessible and in it alone dwells immortality and glory by essence, and though also the most holy soul of Christ, without measure, exceeds in its gifts those of his Mother; yet the great Queen surpasses inaccessibly all the saints in glory and has a likeness to that of Christ, which cannot be understood in this life, nor ever described.
"Just as little can be explained the extra joy, which the blessed experienced on that day in singing the new songs of praise to the Omnipotent and in celebrating the glory of his Daughter, Mother and Spouse, for in Her He had exalted all the works of his right hand. Although to the Lord himself could come no new or essential glory, because He possessed and possesses it immutably infinite through all eternity; yet the exterior manifestations of his pleasure and satisfaction at the fulfillment of his eternal decrees were greater on that day, and from the throne a voice, as if of the eternal Father resounded, saying:
In the glory of our beloved and most loving Daughter all, the pleasure of our holy will is fulfilled to our entire satisfaction. To all the creatures, We have given existence, creating them out of nothing, in order that they may participate in our infinite goods and treasures according to the inclination and pleasure of our immense bounty.
The very ones, who were made capable of our grace and glory, have abused this blessing. Our cherished Daughter alone had no part in the disobedience and prevarication of the rest, and She has earned what the unworthy children of perdition have despised; and our heart has not been disappointed in Her at any time or moment.
To Her belong the rewards, which according to our conditional decree, We had prepared for the disobedient angels and for their followers among men, if they had been faithful to their grace and vocation. She has recompensed Us for their falling away by her subjection and obedience; She has pleased Us in all her operations and has merited a seat on the throne of our Majesty.
"On the third day after the most pure soul of Mary had taken possession of this glory, never to leave it, the Lord manifested to the saints his divine will, that She should return to the world, resuscitate her sacred body and unite Herself with it, so that She might in body and soul be again raised to the right hand of her divine Son without waiting for the general resurrection of the dead.
"The appropriateness of this favor, its accordance with the others received by the most blessed Queen and with her super eminent dignity, the saints could not but see, since even to mortals it is so credible, that even if the Church had not certified it, we would judge those impious and foolish, who would dare deny it.
"But the blessed saw it with greater clearness, together with the determined time and hour as manifested to them in God himself. When the time for this wonder had arrived, Christ our Savior himself descended from heaven bringing with Him at his right hand the soul of his most blessed Mother and accompanied by many legions of the Angels, the Patriarchs, and ancient Prophets.
"They came to the sepulchre in the valley of Josaphat, and all being gathered in sight of the
virginal temple, the Lord spoke the following words to the saints.
My Mother was conceived without stain of sin, in order that from Her virginal substance I might stainlessly clothe Myself in the humanity in which I came to the world and redeemed it from sin. My flesh is her flesh; She co-operated with Me in the works of the Redemption. Hence, I must raise Her, just as I rose from the dead, and this shall be at the same time and hour. For I wish to make Her like Me in all things.
"All the ancient saints of the human race then gave thanks for this new favor in songs of praise and glory to the Lord. Those that especially distinguished themselves in their thanksgiving were our first parents Adam and Eve, Saint Anne, Saint Joachim, and Saint Joseph, as being the more close partakers in this miracle of his Omnipotence.
"Then the purest soul of the Queen, at the command of the Lord, entered the virginal body, reanimated it and raised it up, giving it a new life of immortality and glory and communicating to it the four gifts of clearness, impassibility, agility, and subtlety, corresponding to those of the soul and overflowing from it into the body.
"Endowed with these gifts the most blessed Mary issued from the tomb in body and soul, without raising the stone cover and without disturbing the position of the tunic and the mantle that had enveloped her sacred body.
"Since it is impossible to describe her beauty and refulgent glory, I will not make the attempt. It is sufficient to say, that just as the heavenly Mother had given to her divine Son in her womb the form of man, pure, unstained and sinless, for the Redemption of the world, so in return the Lord, in this resurrection and new regeneration, gave to Her a glory and beauty similar to his own.
"In this mysterious and divine interchange each One did what was possible: most holy Mary engendered Christ, assimilating Him as much as possible to Herself, and Christ resuscitated Her, communicating to Her of his glory as far as She was capable as a creature.
"Then from the sepulchre was started a most solemn procession, moving with celestial music through the regions of the air and toward the empyrean heaven. This happened in the hour immediately after midnight, in which also the Lord had risen from the grave, and therefore not all of the Apostles were witness of this prodigy, but only some of them, who were present and watching at the sepulchre.
"The saints and angels entered heaven in the order in which they had started; and in the last place came Christ our Savior and at his right hand the Queen, clothed in the gold of variety (as David says Ps.44, 10), and so beautiful that She was the admiration of the heavenly court. All of them turned toward Her to look upon Her and bless Her with new jubilee and songs of praise.
"Thus were heard those mysterious eulogies recorded by Solomon:
Come, daughters of Sion, to see your Queen, who is praised by the morning stars and celebrated by the sons of the Most High.
Who is She that comes from the desert, like a column of all the aromatic perfumes?
Who is She, that rises like the aurora, more beautiful than the moon, elect as the sun, terrible as many serried armies?
Who is She that comes up from the desert resting upon her Beloved and spreading forth abundant delights? (Cant. 3, 6-9; 8, 5).
Who is She in whom the Deity itself finds so much pleasure and delight above all other creatures and whom He exalts above them all in the heavens!
O novelty worthy of the infinite Wisdom! O prodigy of his Omnipotence, which so magnifies and exalts Her!
Amid this glory, the most blessed Mary arrived body and soul at the throne of the most blessed Trinity. And the three divine Persons received Her on it with an embrace eternally indissoluble. The eternal Father said to Her: 'Ascend higher, my Daughter and my Dove.'
"The incarnate Word spoke: 'My Mother, of whom I have received human being and full return of my work in thy perfect imitation, receive now from my hand the reward thou hast merited.'
"The Holy Ghost said: 'My most beloved Spouse, enter into the eternal joy, which corresponds to the most faithful love; do Thou now enjoy thy love without solicitude, for past is the winter of suffering for Thou hast arrived at our eternal embraces.'
"There the most blessed Mary was absorbed in the contemplation of the three divine Persons and as it were overwhelmed in the boundless ocean and abyss of the Divinity, while the saints were filled with wonder and new accidental delight."