When I first started my books in the Illustrated Rosary series, I really wasn’t sure how the book was going to be laid out. In fact, most of the first year of me “making” the books was me playing with the format and seeing what worked and what didn’t. And then scraping everything that I had just spent months designing and creating something better. (There might have been some tears involved. And by might, I mean definitely.)
But, one thing that I was absolutely certain about was that each mystery had to start out with a scripture reading. And, not only scripture reading, but a long, extended scripture reading that delved fully into the mystery.
And this is partly because when I was in college, I drifted away from Catholicism and attended a Baptist campus ministry instead. They were lovely people who were full of the spirit… and boy, did they love the bible! Anything that they did, they had to have a biblical basis for it. Though their prayers were largely them improvising in the spirit of the moment, because they lived and breathed the bible so much, their prayers nearly always had a biblical flair to it. Anything that didn’t have a biblical basis was looked upon with suspect.
And so, when I started praying the Rosary when I was in college, I made sure that each mystery that I prayed had some sort of biblical basis for it. And, that was okay… until I hit the Glorious Mysteries.
And then I ran into trouble.
See, the Assumption and the Coronation of Mary aren’t really in the bible. The New Testament is all about Jesus Christ, after all. The Assumption, where Mary enters into Heaven, and the Coronation are not part of Jesus Christ’s story. They’re part of sacred tradition concerning Mary, the Mother of God.
Yet, because I had immersed myself into the Baptist ministry, such mysteries seemed borderline heretical to me. After struggling with them, I decided that perhaps the Assumption was all about getting into Heaven — which anyone can do — and the Coronation of Mary was all part of winning the heavenly crown — which anyone can do. And thus, having scripture passages wasn’t very important.
And so, I am afraid to admit that I didn’t really honor Mary that much at first when I started saying the Rosary!
Fortunately, praying the Rosary softens your heart toward Mary. Reading some of St. Alphonsus Liguori’s work also was helpful for me!
But it was going through religious art that made the biggest impact for me and really emphasized the special role of Mary. After all, while some saints had assumption pictures, none were quite so glorious as Mary’s Assumption. I mean, just look at this! How can you view this picture and deny the glory of Mary?
I was forced to admit that Mary’s Assumption was truly special in a way that I had never fully considered before after going through artwork after artwork of the Assumption of Mary.
But then, I was still stuck with the problem: how do I find in depth scripture readings that capture this sacred moment of the Assumption?
And so, I read my bible. I prayed. I looked through my parish’s extensive library about the mysteries of the Rosary. I read Edward Sri’s The New Rosary in Scripture: Biblical Insights for Praying the 20 Mysteries. I googled a lot of things. And, while I came away with a much better understanding of the Glorious Mysteries, I still didn’t find a special reading for the Assumption or the Coronation of Mary.
And this really bugged me. Usually, my quest for the perfect scripture takes days. This was taking weeks, and I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. The word “discouraged” doesn’t even begin to cover it!
Sure, there were some great snippets of scripture that seemed to really capture the Assumption, but that’s all they were: snippets. And, if you looked at those snippets in the context of the larger body of scripture, usually they carried an entirely different meaning outside of those snippets. Not that that these snippets didn’t point to the Assumption as truth — they did! But I wanted a longer scripture, preferably from the gospel.
It was only until I studied the Song of Songs when I truly thought I was making progress, as there are numerous snippets that seemed custom-made for Mary. For example, take this line, from Song of Songs 6:8-10 (from the Douay Rheims edition, which is the bible that I use for scripture in my book):
One is my dove, my perfect one is but one, she is the only one of her mother, the chosen of her that bore her. The daughters saw her and declared her most blessed: the queens and concubines, and they praised her. Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in army?
How can you not read that and not think of Mary? Especially with the Revelation passage which describes her arrayed with the sun and moon and stars! And even the terrible part fits — after all, in many images of the Assumption, don’t many of the apostles shrink away as Mary is assumed into Heaven? And isn’t that line perfect, which speaks of Mary coming forth? After all, when we are received into Heaven, in God’s perspective we are totally coming toward Him.
Plus, I knew that the Church Fathers had viewed the Song of Songs as a song between Christ and the Church. Often, Mary is used to symbolize the Church, and so in the context of scripture, it could be viewed as referring to Mary!
But, this passage also reminded me of another scripture passage. After all, where is Mary praised and called the most blessed? In the Visitation, where she meets her cousin, Elizabeth! I knew this from the Joyful Mysteries, and it suddenly seemed silly that I had not realized that this passage was not just for the Joyful Mysteries but for the Glorious Mysteries as well. After all, hadn’t I written months and months before that to be blessed means to be with God?
And so, I looked at that old blog entry and realized: I had written that blog for the Feast of the Assumption. I even quoted that very gospel passage, relating to Elizabeth and Mary, as that is the gospel reading of that feast day!
The reading of the Visitation, which I had thought I had so brilliantly connected using the Song of Songs, was the main gospel reading for the Feast of the Assumption. The Church Fathers had figured out this connection a millennia before I was even born.
I had just reinvented the wheel.
And so, I realized three things:
- If you study scripture thoroughly, you will always go back to the Church. Because the Church owns sacred scripture.
- Church tradition is based on the Word of God, more than we can possibly realize.
- I should really listen to the Church more!
And thus, the two scripture passages of the Assumption are of the Visitation and that little snippet I shared with you of the Song of Songs are the scripture readings that precede the Glorious Mysteries of the Assumption.