A Sign of Hope and Consolation

The sermon that I preached (more or less) in the village church of Grub im Wienerwald this morning, the Solemnity of the Assumption, the 10th anniversary of my first profession, the 7th anniversary of my solemn profession.


Our earthly life is a strange mixture of joy and misery. When we look at the wonder and beauty of our world— the blazing light of the sun turning the sky into a blue dome, flashing on the snowy tops of mountains, filtering through the green leaves of the trees, glittering on the waters. What wonders!  What joys! When we look at ourselves— these marvelous embodied spirits with eyes to see the brilliantly colored flowers, and ears to hear the rustling of the wind in the tree tops, and tongues to taste the sun-ripened peach; and above all, the light of intellect to penetrate to the depths and know the greater wonders of the first beginnings and causes of things. And the joys of friendship! Joys doubled and tripled by being shared in mutual benevolence and understanding. And the intoxicating ecstasy of young love! Beauty that transfixes the heart. And the joys of family life— to see new life come into the world, and take its first steps and begin to share the wonder of this world. The joy of growing old in faithfulness and seeing one’s children and one’s children’s children about one. And And the glory of the city at peace; noble, high and fair: rerum pulcherrima Roma. “The world is so full of a number of things, / I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.” How do our hearts not burst with so much joy? Ich schnitt es gern in alle Rinden ein, / ich grüb es gern in jeden Kieselstein…

But earthly joys are  always overshadowed by sorrow. Nature herself threatens us with floods and droughts and diseases. Pain and death at every turn. And the microcosm of our humanity is torn by disordered passion warring against spirt. Greed, anger, lust spoiling our joys. For the good which I will, I do not; but the evil which I will not, that I do. Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Friendships spoiled by envy, slander, and gossip. Love betrayed and destroyed by unfaithfulness and selfishness. To feel the pain of betrayal from those whom one loves most; to feel “how sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is / to have a thankless child.” Or to feel the shame and guilt of having oneself betrayed those whom one loves most. And to see the fatherland poisoned by injustice, exploitation, corruption, and violence; the poor defrauded of their wages, morals debauched, innocent blood shed. How do we not collapse under the weight of  so much guilt and shame? Why do our hearts not break with sorrow? Oh that the earth would open up and swallow us! That the sea would rise up and cover us! That the sky would fall down upon us and crush the life out of us forever! “Gut ist der Schlaf, der Tod ist besser— freilich Das Beste wäre, nie geboren sein.

The Lord has mercy on his creation. He takes our human nature on Himself, bears our sorrows, atones for our guilt, and makes us anew. And wins for us eternal life: a vision of uncreated glory that outshines all earthly happiness more than the sun outshines a glow-worm, a union of love that infinitely exceeds all earthly loves. True life, true happiness. Today we celebrate His mother, whom He made new before all others, whom He preserved from every shadow of sin, and  whom today He assumed body and soul into Heaven. The model of the new creation. The exemplar of true life and happiness. The exemplar after whom we too are to be formed. A sign of hope and of consolation. And she looks on us with motherly and merciful love, and helps us, and intercedes for us, and clothes us in grace, leading us on the way to follow her to eternal happiness.

Oh Mother of God, brighter than the sun, more beautiful than the stars, light that guides us on our way, consolation in our sorrow: in sorrow and temptation in shame and danger we cry to you. Turn your motherly eyes toward us and help us. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

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