“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26).
Shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution, which instantiated Communism in Russia and established what was perhaps history’s first explicitly atheist regime, the Irish poet W.B. Yeats attempted to capture the spirit of the age: “Turning and turning in the widening gyre/The falcon cannot hear the falconer/Things fall apart; the center cannot hold/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…”
“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold…” It is, perhaps, still an apt expression for our fragmented society—and our own quest for self-fulfillment. The more we try to hold things together by our own power, the more we realize how hopeless the endeavor truly is.
Death, from one perspective, is the final falling apart. We lose control one last time; and this loss appears definitive. As Pope Benedict XVI described it, death is “the impossibility of giving oneself a foothold, the final collapse of self-determination.”
Christ, however, is the one in whom all things hold together (Colossians 1:17). As we cede control to him, our hearts open to life and begin to flourish; and death loses its sting.
Each August 15 the Church celebrates the solemnity of the Assumption to remind us of that truth. For in Mary we see someone fully opened to the Lord. In Mary we see someone who surrendered everything to God; someone who, instead of shrieking, “I want it my way!” trustingly replied, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” Where that openness to God is present, the body’s earthly life still ends, but eternal life, body and soul united in the glory of God, is assured.
Things do indeed fall apart, but we can choose our response. We can clutch and grasp to the bitter end, or we can surrender everything to the God who loves us. And in that daily letting go, which is a very real sort of death, we enter more deeply into the mystery of Mary’s Assumption, as the fulfillment of God’s promise and the joyful auspice of our own calling to eternal life.