This past week we celebrated the feast of the Assumption of Mary which has been so beautifully depicted in this masterpiece by Titian, an Italian painter who was the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. Perhaps because of this feast day, Catholics have traditionally reflected on heaven in the month of August. Here are three important things about heaven which we can learn while reflecting on this masterpiece of Mary's assumption:
1) In Titian's depiction of the assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven we see the Father gazing at her, eager to welcome her into glory, delighted in the beauty of this woman who had been the mother of his son. In that gaze we see the Father's desire also to delight us, to embrace us, to bring us home. "In heaven, the sight of God will afford us every sense of well-being, every delight, every satisfaction, every joy; our souls will be immersed in a sea of delight and will enjoy a degree of happiness far greater than that which we can ever hope to attain. For heaven is the eternal possession of God, our true happiness and in him the possession of every other good" (Daughters of St. Paul, Heaven, Pauline Books & Media, (c) 1950, 40, 37).
2) I remember speaking with a woman who was mourning the unexpected and abrupt loss of her deaf and mute thirty-year-old son. One day I said to her with tears in my eyes, "When you walk through the gates of heaven, you will hear for the first time in your life from the lips of your son the words: 'Mom, I love you!'" She responded to me incredulously, "You mean, he isn't suffering in heaven?" It was my turn to be astounded. "No," I cried. "In heaven there is no more suffering or tears or pain or sorrow."
Jesus told us, "Do not be troubled at all. You believed in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many mansions. Were it not so I would have told you, because I am going now to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I am coming back again, and I will take you to myself, so that you may be with me where I am" (cf. Jn. 14:1-3). Saint Paul, after being caught up to the “third heaven,” wrote: "Our eye has not seen, nor our ear heard, nor has it even entered into our hearts or imaginations what things God has prepared for those who love him" (cf. 1 Cor. 2:9).
3) The Church in her liturgy has us pray in trust to the God who has saved us that we might merit eternal happiness in heaven. Life is a process of learning trust and surrender and faith in the midst of all kinds of contradictory situations. Naturally speaking, as we grow up we grow stronger, more capable, more certain of ourselves. As we develop a greater capacity in the things of the spirit, we—like Mary—glory in our weakness. We trust in the midst of uncertainty; we believe when we can't change things that God is there bending over us with compassion, smoothing the way to eternal glory. Mary, assumed into heaven, reminds us that where she has gone we will follow. Saint Lomman, an abbot living in seventh century Ireland, prayed to Mary: "Our eyes and hearts are lifted to you. Hear the cry of your children. You, our Mother, will hasten to help. You gladden the hearts that mourn and dry the eyes that weep. Mother of the widow and orphan, safe home of the outcast, the mighty and the lowly find peace in your presence. Your smile is peace."
Joy of the Father, Love of the Son, Delight of the Holy Spirit, Mary, assumed into heaven, pray for us. Amen.