Fr George Panthanmackel, msfs - Provincial
WISH YOU A VERY HAPPY FEAST OF THE ASSUMPTION AND HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY! By promulgating the Bull, Munificentissimus Deus, on November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII declared infallibly that the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was a dogma of the Catholic Faith. Likewise, the Second Vatican Council taught in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium that “the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, when her earthly life was over, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things (LG 59).”
Regarding the day, year, and manner of Our Lady's death, nothing certain is known. The Catholic faith, however, has always derived our knowledge of the mystery from Apostolic Tradition. The dates assigned for it vary between three and fifteen years after Christ's Ascension. Two cities claim to be the place of her departure: Jerusalem and Ephesus. Common consent favours Jerusalem, where her tomb is shown; but some argue in favour of Ephesus. The first six centuries did not know of the tomb of Mary at Jerusalem.
The belief in the corporeal assumption of Mary is founded on the apocryphal treatise De Obitu S. Dominae, bearing the name of St John, which belongs however to the fourth or fifth century. If we consult genuine writings in the East, it is mentioned in the sermons of St Andrew of Crete, St John Damascene, St Modestus of Jerusalem and others. In the West, St. Gregory of Tours (De gloria mart., I, iv) mentions it first. St John of Damascus (P.G., I, 96) thus formulates the tradition of the Church of Jerusalem: “
St Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon (451), made known to the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven.”
The scripture-readings of August 15, in fact, allude to the Assumption in a derivative and fuller sense. The images in the passage actually refer to the Church. The woman in the passage symbolises the Church community, struggling against God’s Old Adversary. If we’ve come to apply these images to Our Lady, it's because of her role as the mother of the Church and the representative of all believers in Christ, who place their faith in him and follow him. She's the symbol of all those who say ‘yes’ to God, and who therefore resist sinful attitudes or attitudes opposed to what God stands for.
At the time when the Book of Revelation was written, the dragon, of which we hear in the first reading, represented the power of the anti-Christian Roman Emperors, from Nero to Domitian. This power seemed boundless. The military, political and propagandist power of the Roman Empire was such that before it the Church appeared as a defenceless woman with no chance of survival and even less of victory. Yet, we know that in the end it was the defenceless woman who won and not egoism or hatred. The love of God triumphed and the Roman Empire was opened to the Christian faith. ‘
Today too, the dragon exists’, in the teachings of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, ‘in new and different ways. It exists in the form of materialistic ideologies that tell us it is absurd to think of God; it is absurd to observe God's commandments: they are a leftover from a time past. Life is only worth living for its own sake. Even now, this dragon appears invincible, but it is still true today that God is stronger than the dragon, that it is love which conquers rather than selfishness.’
Let us now look at the other image: “the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, surrounded by 12 stars.” Without any doubt, a first meaning is that it is Our Lady, Mary, clothed with the sun, that is, with God, totally; Mary who lives totally in God, surrounded and penetrated by God's light. Surrounded by the 12 stars, that is, by the 12 tribes of Israel, by the whole People of God, by the whole Communion of Saints; and at her feet, the moon, the image of death and mortality. Mary has left death behind her; she is totally clothed in life, she is taken up body and soul into God's glory and thus, placed in glory after overcoming death. Today she says to us: Take heart, it is love that wins in the end! The message of my life was: I am the handmaid of God, my life has been a gift of myself to God and my neighbour. And this life of service now arrives in real life. May you too have trust and have the courage to live like this, countering all the threats of the dragon. The “woman clothed with the sun” is the great sign of the victory of love, of the victory of goodness, of the victory of God over slavery to sin, of the victory of life and freedom for which the founding fathers of independent India selflessly and lovingly fought, freeing the nation from foreign yoke on August 15, 1947.
Like Mary who served Elizabeth selflessly, let us on India’s Independence Day, together with the Founding Fathers of the nation, dedicate ourselves fully and selflessly to the service of the people of our nation without counting the cost. It is to love everyone without any condition and measure.
For St Francis de Sales, selfless love is love without measure. One should not put any limit to this love, but allow it to grow. Love God above everything; love our neighbours with maximum generosity. We need to love our brothers and sisters more than we love ourselves “The measure of our love for God is to love him without measure. We should not put any limit to our love rather we ought to allow its branches to spread as far as they can. What is said here of God can similarly be said of our love for our neighbour, provided that God’s love always floats above and holds the first place in our heart. After that, we should love our brothers and sisters with all the expanse of our heart. We are not to rest satisfied with merely loving them as we love ourselves to which God’s commandments bind us. We are to love them more than ourselves to keep the rules of the evangelical perfection which demand this of us” (St Francis de Sales, Spiritual Conferences, Translated by Ivo Carneiro, Vol.I, Bangalore: SFS Publications, 1995, p. 62).
Fr Peter Mary Mermier, our beloved Founder, in his letter to Fr Petitjean, written on December 5, 1844, illustrates further the way of practising this love. “It is above all the spirit of the Rule: renunciation of self, the sacrifice of one’s comforts and conveniences, to make oneself all things to all, everywhere, always even in the least things: to be like the grain of wheat thrown on the earth. Charity and gentleness towards neighbour are daughters of the love of God” (Selected Letters and Writings of Fr Peter Marie Mermier 1790-1862, Edited by Adrian Duval and Translated by Antony Mookenthottam, Bangalore: SFS Publications, 2007, p.31).
Second Annual Retreat
The next obligatory second annual retreat of the Province will be from October 01st 2016 morning at 9.00 am to 05th till 3 pm (Please note this date in your programme calendar if you have not attended the first retreat) at MSFS Provincial House, Guwahati. May I request your participation in this retreat without fail, and kindly do not organize any personal or community programme that prevents you from full participation in the retreat. You may avoid coming late and leaving the venue early before the conclusion of the retreat. Please bring with you the MassRegister, the Bible, the Breviary, the Constitutions, the Province Statutes and the Action Plan with a Vision
Communication from Fr Emmanuel Uppamthadathil, Admonitor and the Councillor Incharge of Education The next joint meeting of the Education Forum of the Province and Education Forum of Dibrugarh Region is scheduled to be held on October 23, 2016, at MSFS Provincialate, Guwahati. Hence, all members of the Forum as well as all Principals / Headmasters are requested to attend the meeting without fail. We shall begin the meeting at 9 in the morning and it will be over by 4pm.
Comunication from Fr Athnas Kerketta, the Councillor Incharge of Mission The next meeting of the Mission Forum of the Province is scheduled to be held on August 31, 2016, at MSFS Provincialate, Guwahati. Rev. Fr Agnelo Fernandes, General Secretary for Mission and the former Superior General, has agreed to animate the meeting. Hence, all members of the Mission Forum as well as all the parish priests of the Province are requested to attend the meeting without fail. We shall begin the meeting at 9 in the morning and it will be over by 4pm.