The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary
Revelation 11:19, 12:1-6, 10; Psalm 45; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26; Luke 1:39-56
The deep darkness of the universe, death dealing, fire breathing dragons, prophecies and omens in the sky, multiple headed creatures, galaxies, stars and planets. It sounds like Harry Potter colliding with Star Wars.
Fantasy, fiction and particularly, science fiction have endured the charge that they are escapist and distracting, that is, they have no real value or they are not real literature. But the British science fiction writer, Arthur C. Clark, disagrees. You know Clark as the author behind the Stanley Kubrick film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Clark argues that the science fiction writer does a great service for the community because they encourage in their readers, flexibility of mind, adaptability and the readiness to accept and even welcome change.
Now Sacred Scripture is not science fiction but like science fiction the biblical authors at times use fantastic images to challenge and stretch our minds and imagination as God reveals God’s self to us. Do any of us really think that we comprehend God? Do any of us understand the mercurial movements of God in the life of the universe or our own small life on earth in comparison to the vastness of deep space? As the psalmist questioned,
“When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars [the galaxies and quasars, the nebulae and planets, the meteors and suns] that you set in place—What is the human being that you are mindful of us…that you care for us?” [Psalm 8:4-5]
Our dilemma is that we dream too small; our categories, the way we think is too small. Our human experience compared with all of recorded history and our 14 billion year old universe is simply too small. Though science fiction and the bible are not equivalent, what the science fiction author and the writers of sacred scripture have in common is that they invite us and challenge us to think bigger and deeper.
What is the meaning of this sign in the sky; a woman about to give birth, painfully crying aloud, clothed with the sun, the moon and the stars, clothed with the universe, or as the Jesuit priest and paleontologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ would say, at one with the universe?
What is the meaning of this sign in the sky; a red multi – headed creature, a dragon, that crouches waiting to destroy life as it emerges?
What is the meaning of the new – born being taken up to God while the cosmic woman flees to a protected place in the desert?
Let your imagination run wild. The authors of scripture do! Our Catholic tradition does when it choose to assign this biblical passage for the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
Artists do! Consider the image of the Virgin Mary rising into the heavens surrounded by the angels painted by such artists as Titian, Correggio, Rubens and El Greco as we humans are portrayed looking up.
“What is the human being that you are mindful of us…that you care for us?”
The imaginative adventures of the likes of Harry Potter, Luke Sky Walker and works of science fiction authors may not be far off the mark as avenues alongside the prophecies and imagination of Ezekiel, Daniel and the Book of Revelation to assist us in comprehending our God and place in the cosmos.
As Jesuit priest, George Coyne, SJ, former director of the Vatican Observatory noted, “God reveals himself as one who pours out himself in love and not as one who explains things.”