By Denise Trull
This is the vigil of Our Lady's Assumption into heaven. Sometimes we call this feast Our Lady’s Dormition -- the night of her descent into the deep and trusting slumber of the just, which would lead her to waken in the splendor of Heaven. It is a quiet word, dormition. I love the sound of it. It is a word which fittingly hushes our hearts to contemplate the feast.
We find ourselves this night in Ephesus where we softly open an old door to a plain little house. Our Blessed Lady was spending this night waiting, for this was to be her last night on earth. We slip in cautiously and kneel beside her, careful not to disturb her thoughts. We cannot imagine what was going through her head and her heart. At last she would see Him again, her beautiful Son Jesu, and hold Him in her glorified embrace. It had been many long years of patient fiat waiting. But tonight the trembling joy of fulfillment was near. He was coming to get her. Soon now.
As our eyes grow accustomed to the dimness, we suddenly find that we are not alone. So many of her sons and daughters are gathered from the pages of the Gospels drawn to this place of watching and waiting. She gazes upon each with a love beyond all telling. Was she suddenly taken with the realization that she would miss them so much?
Did she maybe put her hand on the head of a weeping John, who had promised to be her son at the foot of the cross and had not failed to keep that solemn promise. Did she thank him for all the years he had taken care of her in this house? Did she smile at his new tunic woven by her nimble hands just last year by the open window? Did she dry his tears with her gentle hand and whisper -- you too will come someday. You will need to be patient.
And Peter. Did she perhaps remind him to be patient and consistent in his work. Did she promise to pray that he would keep his temper? Did they laugh together over a private joke or two?
Did Luke, the artist, stare at her beautiful face lit by candlelight and try desperately to memorize each and every line of it? For it was a face very much like her Son’s face. He must paint it one day. Did she have any more remembered stories to tell him that she might have forgotten: about the night full of stars and the baby in her arms...that night she first became a mother.
Did Mary Magdalen and Martha travel to find her at the last? Did she thank them for all their hospitality over the years? Did she brush Magdalene’s hair from her face and smile gently at this pensive daughter who had redeemed herself by loving much. This daughter who had made her Son so filled with happiness at a sheep saved. Did Martha gently give her a sip of cool water? Did Lazarus draw near and kiss her goodbye, utterly thankful that she would miss the terrors of the grave he had known among the peoples of the past.
Our Lady had lived long, she had fought the good fight, she had kept the faith. She would be crowned tomorrow. She was going home, after all these years.
I cannot imagine the sorrow of the apostles as they saw her drift away bit by bit with her smile growing more and more gentle. Did they have that same sinking feeling they had known at the Ascension of Jesus? That sense that they were more alone now and there would be a physical emptiness in the house she had called hers.
Did they whisper urgent little messages for Jesus in her ear. Tell Him to come soon, Mother! Tell Him we are doing our best to make Him known and loved. Ask Him if He remembers all the campfire nights and the praying together in the hills. I do. I miss those nights still. Tell Him I love Him. Tell Him I am sorry for not loving Him enough. Please thank Him for me that I am so consoled and find new life each day in the breaking of the bread. Tell Him. Tell Him. Tell Him. Our Lady gathered all their messages and tucked them away for Him with pats on the cheek, a loving look, a squeeze of a hand. Then she slowly closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep to the sound of murmured prayers and grateful tears -- the sounds of a fallen world fading fast behind her.
This was her last night on earth. Did angels come eagerly to claim her as their own? Did they cry in their angelic voices, "At last!" It was a blessed and hushed house, that house in Ephesus that night. The night Our Lady became our Queen. She would always be with us from Heaven, even though we had to let her walk away from earth. In this we rejoice greatly today and everyday, though we will always miss her.
Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most holy! Amen.