Rorate Caeli

Fontgombault Sermon - ASSUMPTION: Even within the Church, the temptation to water down Doctrine!

Sermon for the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady

Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
Fontgombault, August 15, 2018
Fontgombault Abbey in summertime

Beatam me dicent omnes generationes.
All generations shall call me blessed.
(Lk 1:48)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My dearly beloved Sons,

The Assumption is one of the most beloved feasts among those of the liturgical year. Even though we be in the middle of summer, the sun does indeed seem to shine very weakly in the light of those two mysteries, the last two glorious mysteries of the Rosary that are the object of today’s feast, the Assumption and the Coronation in Heaven of the Blessed Virgin. Such are actually the last of the great things that the Almighty has done for her, who had accepted to become His mother.

Today, we who became her adopted children since Jesus said to the Apostle St. John, “Behold thy mother,” rejoice and proclaim that she is blessed. The Almighty has done great things for her. United with the Church on earth, the angelic choirs exult as they see their Queen crossing the gates of Heaven. On the day of the Annunciation, Mary had offered to the second Person of the Holy Trinity the peaceful shelter of her motherly womb, where God made Himself a man. Today, as if to repay her mysteriously — since the Lord owes nothing to anybody, — God receives Mary in His heavenly house, and crowns her forever as the Queen of heaven and earth. Mary is blessed, and all proclaim it.

In her, the work of mankind’s redemption carried out by Jesus has reached its peak. The devil won’t have enjoyed very long the rebellion he had aroused in the first two members of mankind. He was convinced that he had humiliated God in the sin of Eve; now, he receives in Mary an irrevocable defeat. God doesn’t indeed leave the last word to the devil. God triumphs, as He makes even fairer what the devil had made foul.

Today’s feast is, in our deeply perverted and misshapen world, the motive for a firm hope. It is never barren to say “Yes” to God, to accept sufferings. Frédéric Ozanam said:

Even though we be unprofitable servants, we serve a supremely thrifty Master, Who never allows the tiniest drop of sweat shed out of love to be lost, as He does not allow a drop of His dew to be lost.

Yet, today’s feast commemorates a parting. During the great retreat expecting the coming of the Holy Spirit on the morning of Pentecost, Mary remained with the disciples, encouraging them to prayer. ... After parting with Jesus on the Ascension, the Assumption would seem to be a new trial for the newborn Church. The Greek physicians taught that bodies naturally reach the place of their rest. This is precisely what is happening on this day. The soul of her who would only say “Yes” to God, belongs more to Heaven than to earth. Her body, preserved from the very first moment of her conception from all stain of sin, on account of the fact that it was to give shelter to Jesus during nine months, also belongs to Heaven. How could such a creature abide in our midst?

Such an amazement was shown by the parish priest of L’Île Bouchard, where Our Lady appeared on December 8th, 1947, and the following days, as he raised his arms towards Heaven and cried, “It’s therefore true! She does come down among us!” How can we conceive that Mary, the All-holy, the All-pure, could still come and visit us? Shouldn’t she perhaps fear to get sullied with the contact of our earth’s miseries? 

She who offered her maternal womb, now sees this sacred place becoming in many women the site of a war, to the death and merciless, waged on a defenceless embryo. Nations claim this as a right and a token of progress. She who received from God St. Joseph, so that the order of nature should be respected, even in the miraculous conception of the Son of God, and so that the Child Jesus should enter the world surrounded with a father and a mother, and get their help during the first years of His life, now sees so many men and women claim the right to possess a child, even though they are totally unable to offer this child the place of a healthy development. She who rejoiced in the look with which God considered His handmaiden, and sung the mercy of the Most High, now sees the world glorying in life modes that debase human beings, and shackle mankind in the darkness of new forms of slavery. What seemed to be unthinkable 100 years, 60 years, 30 years, 5 years ago, is nowadays taking place… and the world keeps salving its conscience, claiming to follow the unavoidable path of progress. 

And when intoxication and illusion clear up for a short moment, and we can clearly see both the degradation of our planet, and the hatred between men, which bears witness to the fact that the world is on the road to ruin, man calls God to account: how can He allow things to go that way? God had put man in the fair garden of the world, so that man should till everything that is true, good, and beautiful. Man assumed the right to recreate the world, by inviting there what is evil. As to God, He should now cope with the situation so that the garden, turned into a dump, the work of a talentless and ideologist artist, should be true, good, and beautiful. Yet, if man is mendacious, God is not! They are few, those who remain unpolluted with the havoc wrought by the sorcerer’s apprentice. The world is baffling. It can be reassuring, even for good men, to justify oneself and become, just a tiny bit, in the likeness of the world. Even within the Church, there may appear the temptation to water down, just a bit, the traditional teaching, in the hope of becoming more successful. They are few, those who play such a dangerous game without ideologist schemes, or even self-interest.

Let us contemplate the most beautiful reality that God gave us, let us contemplate Mary. She is pure, holy, and immaculate. So pure, holy, and immaculate, that she can be the Mother of all those who are neither pure, nor holy, nor immaculate, that she can be a perfect Mother. The same goes for the Church. A true mother doesn’t make compromises when she teaches her children, but she serves them by keeping them on the way towards holiness. Paul VI had understood that, when he wrote Humanæ vitæ. I urge you to read it again, for it is a safe road for those who choose true love.

Let us consider Mary ascending towards Heaven, where, as we sing, she is blessed. Let us irrevocably forget the mendacious siren calls. Let us choose to follow our Mother, in an uncompromising “Yes” to God. Let us allow her to take us by the hand.

Virgin of light, dispel the darkness of our earth!