Lady and the "Dragon": A Papal Ferragosto
Today's the Solemnity of the Assumption, of course, so buona festa a tutti... ma anche buon ferragosto!
Not for nothing does l'Assunzione coincide with the ferragosto -- the "sacred pinnacle" of the Italian summer hiatus.... But not for B16, who put in double duty on this holy day, both celebrating Mass at the local parish near Castel Gandolfo, then returning to his summer villa for the Angelus before yet another overflow crowd.
The Pope took inspiration from the apocalyptic image of the “red dragon, the symbol of absolute selfishness, terror and violence” to describe the story of the world as an ongoing “struggle between love and selfishness;” and not only in the age of the Roman Empire or in 1900, but today as well.
“We saw the power of the red dragon realised in the great dictatorships of the last century,” Benedict XVI said. "The dictatorships of Nazism and Stalinism had a power that penetrated every corner. On the long run it seemed impossible that faith could survive such a powerful dragon who sought to devour God who had become a child, and the woman, the Church. But in this case in fact love proved stronger than hatred.”
For the Pontiff today’s dragon is found “in the materialist ideologies that say: It is absurd to think about God. It is absurd to observe God’s Commandments. It is something from a bygone era . . . . Only consumerism, selfishness and fun are worth something. That’s life.”
“Again it seems absurd, impossible to oppose this dominant mentality with all its media and propaganda power. It seems impossible to think about a God who created man, who became a child, the real would-be ruler of the world,” he said.
Benedict XVI finally spoke what Our Lady means, a woman “dressed in the sun, that is to say God.” It is indeed Mary who “overcoming death told us: Courage, love wins in the end! My life means that I am God’s handmaid; my life means giving myself to God and my fellow man as a gift. Have trust, have courage to live thus against all the dragon’s threats. Mary,” he said, “is the sign that love, goodness and God shall win.”
Our Lady also means a “woman who suffers, who must flee, giving birth in crying pain, i.e. the Church, the pilgrim Church of all ages. In all generations the Church must give birth to Christ, bring him into the world in great pain and suffering. Throughout the ages the Church has been persecuted by the dragon.”
“But,” the Pope said, “throughout the ages the Church was nourished by God, nourished with the same bread that is the Holy Eucharist. And thus in all its tribulations, in all the various situations the Church found itself throughout time in the different parts of the world, the Church wins by suffering.”
“And thus the feast day of the Immaculate,” Benedict XVI explained, “is an invitation to trust God and an invitation to imitate Mary,” who said “I am the handmaid of the Lord, I am at the disposal of the Lord.”
Hence the Pope urged us “to give our life rather than take any, setting off on the path of love, which means losing ourselves, a path which alone can let us truly find ourselves as well as find true life.”
In concluding he said: “Let us look upon Mary, the Assunta, and be encouraged in our faith and in the feast of joy: God wins. Faith, which appeared weak, is the real power of the world. Love is stronger than hatred.”