by Cardinal Timothy Dolan
Two Feasts for the ‘Summit of Summer’
August presents us with an array of radiant feast days in the Church’s calendar. I want to write about a pair of them. Both have enhanced meaning because they occur in this month, the summit of the summer, when the sun is undimmed and the harvest is abundant.
The first celebration is August 6, the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.
As you know, summer, like all four seasons, lasts about ninety days, beginning June 21, concluding September 21. Do the counting: the midpoint of summer is August 6!
No wonder we recall this event of light at summer’s halftime!
You remember the event: Jesus goes up Mount Tabor, taking with Him three of His apostles, Peter, James, and John, and there He is “summer-ized,” made so bright and dazzling that the threesome can hardly look at Him!
The gospels, through the Transfiguration, teach us that Jesus is the light of a world often seemingly cloudy and gloomy. In His splendor, His divinity is dramatically apparent to His three friends. In fact, they even hear the voice of God the father thunder, “This is my beloved Son!” Easy to believe that Jesus is divine, the light of the world, at the Transfiguration!
But Jesus is the wise Rabbi who also wanted to remind His three students that times would come when it would not at all be easy to have faith in Him. Such a time would eventually come on another hilltop, this one not Tabor, but Calvary.
These days of summer, now at its midpoint on August 6, can be a more carefree, enjoyable time of vacation, family, friends, and relaxation. They can be a Mount Tabor experience! Save these memories to draw upon when Calvary comes in the slush and dreariness of the midwinters of our lives.
The second August feast comes on the 15th, the Assumption! Mary, the mother of Jesus, is taken up to heaven, body and soul, there to be with her son, her Lord and Savior, Jesus.
Our gardens and the farmers’ fields are at the height of their produce now: watermelon, tomatoes, corn, berries!
God, the Bible tells us, looks at His creation as a garden. Mary is the height of the harvest, as she is at the top of life, eternal life, body and soul, with Jesus in heaven.
That’s our goal as well, to be with Jesus, body and soul, for all eternity in heaven. That won’t happen until the Resurrection of the Dead, as we pray each Sunday in the creed, when our bodies will rise and be reunited with our souls.
In our Christian worldview, the body is sacred, an actual temple of the Holy Spirit. The body is so much a part of our essence that we’ll have it back for all eternity in heaven.
You’ll agree with me that we live in an era that treats the body as disposable, sadly as something to be abused. We think of violence done to the body; of throwing a living body away in abortion; of mutilating the body by piercing and tattoos; of hurting the body by drugs and alcohol; of ignoring the God-given gender of our bodies by attempting surgically to change our gender; of using the body of another for raw, abusive pleasure; of harming our bodies by smoking and unhealthy overeating; of failing to honor the body with proper, reverent burial.
None of that is God’s design or intention. The body is not some fleshy add-on to the human person, but an essential, sacred part of who we are, made in God’s image and likeness, deserving of tender care, dignity, and respect.
The body is so cherished in God’s plan that He took one Himself when He became flesh in Jesus Christ what we call the Incarnation, the “enfleshment” of God!
The body is so much an integral part of our person and nature that God wants us, body and soul, with Him in heaven for all eternity…and He’s given us a model in His Mother, assumed into heaven.
Creation is “at her best” these bright sunny, lavish, days of summer. Creatures—you and I—saw our best in Jesus, transfigured on Mount Tabor (August 6) the light of the world, and in Mary, assumed body and soul into heaven (August 15)…and we’re on the road of life to join them.