Today’s a big one on the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox calendars. We’re celebrating the most important event in the life of a woman we all admire.
Last week I wrote about another remarkable young woman, Gabrielle.
I reported her recent crowning as Miss Christian United States, and shared that she was currently in New York City for a very important event. That “event” was actually the International Pageant, held Saturday, Aug. 8.
In case you missed the article, I’ll include Gabrielle’s resumé, as listed in the William Jessup University website. (At 20, she is already on the staff.)
“Gabrielle Jackson, Public Policy Assistant: Gabrielle is a Junior in the Public Policy Program focusing her studies in both Media and Communication and Law and Policy concentrations. She serves as Miss Christian California as well as the National Day of Prayer Youth Coordinator, CA. Gabrielle has a passion for prayer and ministry on campus where she is a Servant Leader for the Jessup House of Prayer and the Prayer Coordinator for the WJU Chapter of International Justice Mission. Gabrielle also has written a book, ‘Not another Teen Rally’, a strategic handbook for her generation concerning how to stand up for their faith and take back their campus, workplace, and generation. She has been coaching high school varsity tennis for four years and mentors Christian clubs throughout the Sacramento region. After graduating from WJU, Gabrielle plans to intern at the Capitol in Washington D.C. and attend law school focusing on constitutional law.” (To fill in the details: she wrote the book at age 17, and won in July the title of Miss Christian United States.)
Now that Gabrielle’s back from New York City, I’ve been planning with her and a few local educators to host, here at St. Mary’s, a gathering for youth. She will be the keynote speaker and a great energizing force. As she wrote to the organization “Californians for Jesus” earlier this year,
“Dear Pastors and Leaders, My name is Gabrielle Jackson and I am the National Day of Prayer Youth Coordinator for the state. As such, I have the opportunity to connect with college, high school, and middle school students across the state in praying on the first Thursday of May.
“This year, God put it on my heart to hold an event where Christian students from college campuses across the Sacramento area will come together and pray for revival on their campus, in this nation, and in our generation.
“I am sending you this e-mail because I know that you have a heart for our generation and I am looking to partner with those who have a heart for seeing Christ glorified…” From there, she spells out the details of her plan.
There’s another woman with a plan for our salvation. She, too, has won a crown. Her crown, like Gabrielle’s, distinguishes her among all women.
Her name is Mary. And today, the Feast of the Assumption, we celebrate the Church’s conviction that, when her mission on earth was fulfilled, the woman who Gabriel describes as “highly favored” or “full of grace” (Luke 1:28) did not yield to corruption, but rather was raised up, body and soul.
The Archangel, like Elizabeth, exclaimed “blessed are you among women,” and Mary echoed, “all ages to come shall call me blessed.” (Luke 1:48)
This blessedness of the Virgin, who united herself completely with Christ as his first perfect disciple, as a spirit-filled woman, and as the one most closely bonded to him in his sufferings, is both God’s gift and her response.
The Catholic Catechism explains our understanding of this blessed woman in a beautiful way. Paragraph numbers will be included after each entry. However, I won’t be able to refer here to the many documents being cited.
“Mary’s role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it. ‘This union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ’s virginal conception up to his death’; it is made manifest above all at the hour of his Passion:
Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross. There she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, joining herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim, born of her: to be given, by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross, as a mother to his disciple, with these words: ‘Woman, behold your son.’ (Par. 964)
“After her Son’s Ascension, Mary ‘aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers.’ In her association with the apostles and several women, ‘we also see Mary by her prayers imploring the gift of the Spirit, who had already overshadowed her in the Annunciation.’ (Par. 965)
“‘Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.’ The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians:
In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death. (P. 966 and the Byzantine ‘Troparion’)
“By her complete adherence to the Father’s will, to his Son’s redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church’s model of faith and charity. Thus she is a ‘preeminent and… wholly unique member of the Church’; indeed, she is the ‘exemplary realization’ (typus) of the Church. (P. 967)
“Her role in relation to the Church and to all humanity goes still further. ‘In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace.’ (P. 968)
“‘Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power…‘No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source.’ (P. 970)
“‘All generations will call me blessed’: ‘The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship.’ The Church rightly honors ‘the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of “Mother of God,” to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs. . . .This very special devotion. . .differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and (in fact) greatly fosters this adoration.’ The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an ‘epitome of the whole Gospel,’ express this devotion to the Virgin Mary.” (971)
If Gabrielle Jackson’s mission is to “create a sustainable movement” in our area for the sake of evangelizing and of quenching our youth’s thirst for Christ, so too does that woman to whom the Archangel Gabriel appeared 2,000 years ago want to build a community of dedicated Christians. And if Gabrielle has won international recognition for her commitment to Jesus, so too does the Mother of our Lord call us to help fulfill the Church’s mission.
Gabrielle called me last night at 11:30pm. She’d just returned from San Francisco, where a powerfully anointed evangelist and revival speaker had visited from South America. “It was an amazing experience. I was really encouraged to watch people giving their lives to Christ, and how God was powerfully changing their lives.” Though exhausted, Gabrielle was highly energized: “Seeing the transformation in people - from the inside out - who entrust themselves to God was really amazing.” Her excitement will be translating, here in the Valley, into organizing similar events among youth.
In her letter to “Californians for Jesus,” Gabrielle echoed the words of Jesus, offered up as he gathered for the Last Supper with his disciples:
“The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind -
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are -
I in them and you in me.
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me.” (John 17:21-22, from ‘the Message’)