Death and Assumption of the Virgin (detail, with St. John kneeling), c. 1550
Museo del Prado
The glory of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is preceded by the silence that must have dominated her intimate circle at the moment of her departure from this earth. For Saint John, in particular, it must have been an indescribable moment, as he realized that the Mother of his Lord, who had become his own Mother by direct divine order from the Cross, would leave him, and would become the Queen of Heaven. In the quaint image by Michiel Coxie above, the remarkable detail of a barefooted John recalls the special relationship he had with the new Eve: at once, one of intimacy as a son who shared an abode with his mother, but also showing the respect owed to the Mother of the Savior. As Moses in Sinai, the Evangelist was on holy ground - the burning bush has repeatedly been seen by the Church, including in several of her traditional liturgical rites, as a sign of the Queen of Heaven.
The power of the Regina in caelum assumpta, the new and eternal burning dwelling place, would manifest itself frequently in the history of the Church, as Pope John Paul II recalled in Fatima - where her message was, as always, one of penance, prayer, reparation, and love for God in silence and actions:
According to the divine plan, "a woman clothed with the sun" (Rv 12: 1) came down from heaven to this earth to visit the privileged children of the Father. She speaks to them with a mother's voice and heart: she asks them to offer themselves as victims of reparation, saying that she was ready to lead them safely to God. And behold, they see a light shining from her maternal hands which penetrates them inwardly, so that they feel immersed in God just as - they explain - a person sees himself in a mirror.Later Francisco, one of the three privileged children, exclaimed: "We were burning in that light which is God and we were not consumed. What is God like? It is impossible to say. In fact we will never be able to tell people". God: a light that burns without consuming. Moses had the same experience when he saw God in the burning bush; he heard God say that he was concerned about the slavery of his people and had decided to deliver them through him: "I will be with you" (cf. Ex 3: 2-12). Those who welcome this presence become the dwelling-place and, consequently, a "burning bush" of the Most High.What most impressed and entirely absorbed Bl. Francisco was God in that immense light which penetrated the inmost depths of the three children. But God told only Francisco "how sad" he was, as he said. One night his father heard him sobbing and asked him why he was crying; his son answered: "I was thinking of Jesus who is so sad because of the sins that are committed against him". He was motivated by one desire - so expressive of how children think - "to console Jesus and make him happy".A transformation takes place in his life, one we could call radical: a transformation certainly uncommon for children of his age. He devotes himself to an intense spiritual life, expressed in assiduous and fervent prayer, and attains a true form of mystical union with the Lord. This spurs him to a progressive purification of the spirit through the renunciation of his own pleasures and even of innocent childhood games.Francisco bore without complaining the great sufferings caused by the illness from which he died. It all seemed to him so little to console Jesus: he died with a smile on his lips. Little Francisco had a great desire to atone for the offences of sinners by striving to be good and by offering his sacrifices and prayers.
John Paul II
May 13, 2000