Sunday, 14 August 2016
The Beauty of Our Lady, Assumption, Shaftesbury
On today’s feast of Our Lady’s Assumption into heaven we think about Our Lady’s being taken up to heaven body and soul. Of course, ALL saints will have bodies in heaven at the resurrection of the dead, but what is different about Our Lady is that HER body was taken up to heaven directly upon her death. And, when her body was assumed it was obviously transfigured and glorified into the state of the glorified bodies that is their heavenly state. I want to say a few words to try to illustrate the glory of Our Lady's heavenly state, and to do so by referring to the BEAUTY of her heavenly body. I want to make that illustration by quoting some words that I heard a few years ago when I went to Lourdes, the words that St Bernadette used when she described how Our Lady looked when she appeared to her in her visions: St Bernadette referred to the BEAUTY of Our Lady:
She was “gracious and smiling”, she said
Years later she would recall: “her eyes were blue”,
“So beautiful that when you’ve seen her once, you can’t wait to die and see her again”
“When you’ve seen her, you can’t love this world any more”
Speaking of her beauty: “Ah! If men only knew! Ah! If sinners only knew!”
After that, all her life, St Bernadette never found statue that looked beautify enough to be Our Lady.
I want to comment on this at both a simple and at a technical level.
At a simple level, this beauty of Our Lady’s heavenly body is exactly what we should expect:
The Lourdes vision identified Our Lady as “the Immaculate Conception”;
We should expect the form of her heavenly appearance to match this Immaculate-ness. Her soul was sinless; Her soul was beautiful; How could her body be otherwise? When her body was assumed into heaven it was glorified and beautified even more.
To think of this more techincally:
Theology tells us that the soul is the form of the body;
Philosophy tells us that matter is always proportioned to form.
For example, if you want a chair, the form of a chair cannot work in the matter of jelly
-the form of a chair needs matter like wood or metal
To consider a more human application, in the Resurrection of the Body:
The Resurrected Body will not be like our present body
–it will be glorified, transfigured, free of suffering etc.
But just as we will each have faces that are different and distinct,
So will our bodies be different,
And our bodies will each be appropriate to our souls.
In heaven, our degree of glory will depend on the degree of merit we gained on earth,
and that degree of merit is measured very simply, says St Thomas Aquinas,
is measured by the degree of love, of divine charity, within us.
Our beauty of our bodies will be proportioned to the love in our souls.
And Our Lady, she who was conceived “full of grace”,
She who cooperated with that grace all through her life such that she GREW in grace,
She who cooperated with grace and the plan of God such that,
as the prayers of the Church express it:
“the birth of Christ your Son DEEPENED the virgin mother’s love for you,
and INCREASED her holiness” (Common of the BVM n.1, prayer over gifts)
How beautiful must she be?
She was born beautiful as “full of grace” and her body was planned to be appropriate to that fullness of grace,
by God’s foreknowledge and predestined plan.
Then she was transfigured in Heaven at her assumption to be EVEN MORE beautiful still,
to correspond to the even greater grace that had grown in her.
If WE would be beautiful in heaven, we need to strive to reject sin, strive have grace fill our weakness.
Even in this world, we see how a beautiful soul carries it body with a type of gracefulness & charm;
in heaven, this will be even more so,
and this is what we see in the Lourdes apparition of Our Lady and in so many other apparitions of Our Lady, in the portrayal of her Assumed glory: “Her eyes were blue”, she was “so beautiful”, because she was and is “the Immaculate Conception” and is thus now in glory in heaven.
Rene Laurentin, Bernadette Speaks (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2000), p.572.
 P.567, also on p.437: “I made the sacrifice of not seeing Lourdes again... In heaven it will be more beautiful”.
Posted by Fr. Dylan James, Catholic Priest in West Moors, England at 07:50