The Dormition – or Feast of the Assumption – is a special moment for Maronite Catholics
The Venerable, Patriarch Elias Howayek once declared; “The Blessed Virgin Mary is the mirror of the Divine beauty, and she is the custodian of our hope”.
In our Blessed Mother, we see the great glory of God, His splendour and the attractive power of Divine Love. In her, we find the guarantee that our weak human nature can be perfected and raised to the joys of heaven. In her, the light of hope forever shines brightly.
As far back as we can follow the Maronite tradition, we have celebrated the Feast of the Assumption, and it has always been the principle celebration of our Lady, in the Eastern churches. It was first celebrated as a memorial of Mary’s dormition.
Towards the end of the 7th century, Pope Sergius I introduced the Feast of “Dormition” into Rome and He called it the Feast of the Assumption. However, it was on 1 November 1950 that Pope Pius XII declared the Assumption as a theological Dogma in the Catholic Church.
On the Feast of the Assumption, we who are the children of Mary, come together in the same spirit of the surviving Apostles who returned from different parts of the world, to pay respects, venerate her, and do honour to she who is the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Mother in the faith and Mother of the Church.
In venerating her departure from this world, we are also joined by her Son Jesus, God the Father and the Holy Spirit with all the angels and saints, to honour Mary, who brought salvation to humanity.
She points us to Him her son and tells us to follow Him always. This is why in the Gospel on this Feast, we read her words, “My soul magnifies the Lord,” because the Lord made her blessed among women.
The following excerpt from the Syriac night prayer is based on the Magnificat, or the mawrbo nfsh(y) l-moryo (My soul magnifies the Lord):
“Praise be to the one who is worshipped and glorified, who has magnified the remembrance of His Mother in heaven and on earth. Amen.”
The Feast of the Assumption reflects the place the Blessed Virgin holds in the lives of Maronites, as the Mother of God, yoldat aloho.
This expression is enshrined in our memories, traditions and in what has become the unofficial anthem of the Maronites, sung to her in the Maronite Liturgy: ya um allah ya hanouna (O Mother of God, O clement).
Our Lady teaches us to follow the example of Our Lord, and not to despair in times of challenge and hardship, but rather, to say as He did: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
On this Feast, it is pertinent to meditate on Our Lady the Virgin Mary as the Mother of our hope, and that it shall be fulfilled in the fullness of time.
Therefore, we have designated 2022 as the Year of Hope in our Maronite Eparchy because so many people have been affected by the sadness and darkness which have covered the globe for too long. It is time to remember as St Peter said, that we have “a reason for the hope within,” (1 Peter 3:15).
Whatever may be happening in the world around us, we ourselves must strive not only to do good, but to be eager to do what is good.
This comes first, and even if we are threatened or suffer for this, be it physically, financially, or through slander, nonetheless, we should not be frightened but always “in our hearts revere Christ as Lord”.
Everything comes from the heart. And if Christ is in our hearts, as he was in the heart of our Lady, then we are centred in the truth, in beauty, in good, and in love. On this Feast, let us take Our Lady as a role model, and remember that if we suffer, then she has suffered before we did, and that her heart was pierced with a sword (Luke 2:35).
I have said that the Blessed Virgin is the mirror of the Divine beauty, and she is the custodian of our hope. Let us pray for her intercession always and especially on behalf of our beloved Lebanon, that the people of the land which has been the cradle of the Maronite faith and its home, may remain a lighthouse for the world in these difficult times.