There was much apocalyptic literature in the centuries before and after Christ – among the Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Persian and even Indian literature. This literature which is about the development in the world of disasters and troubles expressed in dramatic stories, included those of evil ‘influences’ seeking to destroy the next ruler born to a chosen woman to be mother of the future ruler. Some form of these apocalyptic stories were part of Jewish literature – as also the book of Revelation in the N.T. which used to be called the apocalypse in Catholic bibles, because of its similarity to such literature. Our first reading (from Revelations 12:1-6) for the Catholic feast of the Assumption includes an adaptation of this mythic scenario to the situation of Christianity under Roman persecution in the 1st century to encourage believers in Jesus and his resurrection – a faith that secures them safety in heaven, but how the rest of us, still living in our world, are still threatened by evil. The story could bring to mind the assumption of Mary into heaven – waiting with Christ for the rest of us after our struggles against the evil forces in our world. There are ‘secular’ stories of old about such sort of events.
The second reading (1 Cor 15:20-27) is about the resurrection -life with God after death. The appearances of Jesus referred to chiefly in the gospels, are expressions of risen life after death which through Jesus is open to all – but all sin and deficiencies in us humans are gaps in our relationship through Christ with God. I think Paul like most of the early believers though this completion would come fairly soon for them. Bu, after two millennia we have to realise that we are still working on this i.e. on freeing ourselves and our world from many failings and imperfections. The belief in the assumption of Mary who illustrates this fulfilment drew this passage to the minds of those devising the liturgy for the Catholic feast.
The Gospel that is read this day is from Luke 1:39-56 and it gives us what follows after the story of the annunciation. And it includes the song that she sang when visiting Elizabeth, which is sometimes called the magnificat after the first word of it in Latin. It tells of the blessing that she has from God, but also of the way God favours those who are good-living, but suppresses those who are not – I guess most of us a bit of each – but Mary feels utterly blessed and that is the ground for celebrating her this day.
see Jeffs Jottings – Belief in practice