The “arm of God,” that masculine strength of the Almighty, is rarely given the emphasis it deserves. Bishop Fulton Sheen, in his Life is Worth Living television show, said that the problem with Christianity in Western Civilization is that it promotes Christ without a Cross; that is, Jesus is more often portrayed as an effeminate man who “pats little children on the head.” Our modern version of Christ would never drive out the sellers from the Temple; would never say anything against divorce; and would he would never stain his lips by mentioning hell. Sheen goes on to say that this sad characterization of Christ leaves men cold! without passion! and without zeal!
The softening of Jesus’ image also affected the way in which the Mother of God has been portrayed. James Cardinal Gibbons, in his 1889 book, Our Christian Heritage, saw the beginnings of this in the nineteenth century. He said, “It seems to me that some writers are disposed to lay undue stress on the amiable and tender qualities of Mary and of holy Christian women without dwelling sufficiently on the strong and robust points of their character, valor, courage and fortitude.”
Arguably, one of the most strong and robust points of Mary’s life is that of her bodily assumption into heaven. Just as Mary's conception was spared from Original Sin, so too at the evening of her life was her body spared from the consequence of that sin, namely, bodily corruption. Having been created outside of Satan's dominion and having lived a life of valor, courage and fortitude of the most perfect kind, Mary's body would not know the corruption of the grave. With this, she would come to be styled as the "Woman clothed with the Sun" by St. John in the book of Revelation; the one who would crush the head of the Serpent and lay to waste the Culture of Death.
This sacred and historical event is not only meant to inspire and rekindle our hope for eternal happiness; but it also contains a preview of good conquering evil in the final chapter of world history.
Our Lady, when recounting the marvels the Lord had bestowed on her in the Gospel of Luke, emphasized the masculine strength of God and what that strength would imply. She said,
“He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly…”
Perhaps, what she had in mind was not only despotic emperors and kings of old, but dictatorships, totalitarian regimes and the cult of State that would characterize the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Could it be that the Blessed Virgin Mary who is so often depicted in art as effortlessly crushing the head of the Serpent will have a significant role to play in restoring what we fear is being lost forever, namely, Christian civilization?
In 1904, in a spirit of nostalgia, Pope St. Pius X recalled the public devotion Europeans once rendered unto the Mother of God. There was a time when whole cities and whole nations honored this Blessed Woman. In anticipating a future day when such public devotion would be renewed, St. Pius X said, “We must not omit to say that this desire of Ours is especially stimulated by a sort of secret instinct which leads Us to regard as not far distant the fulfillment of those great hopes…” This is the same pope who predicted World War I long before the rumors of war had surfaced.
Mary’s assumption into heaven points to a hope that St. Pius X “secret instinct” will be fulfilled in the "not far distant" future. To be sure, his “instinct” will have something to do with the masculine strength of the Lord in dispersing the proud of heart and casting down the powerful from their thrones. The irony is that God will use what appears to be a harmless little Jewish girl to provoke the Evil One; also referred in the New Testament as the "dragon."
In the book of Revelations, we are given a preview of that conflict: "[T]he dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God's commandments and bear witness to Jesus." (12:17) But it is Isaiah who wrote as if he had spoken to the dragon himself. In a derisive, truimphant tone, his monologue tips us off as to how the story will end:
"How have you fallen from the heavens, O morning star, son of the dawn! How are you cut down to the ground, you who mowed down the nations! You said in your heart: 'I will scale the heavens; Above the stars of God I will set up my throne; I will take my seat on the Mount of Assembly, in the recesses of the North. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will be like the Most High!' Yet down to the nether world you go to the recesses of the pit! When they see you they will stare, pondering over you: 'Is this the man who made the earth tremble, and kingdoms quake?'" (Isaiah 14:12-16)