Ask your presider to tell your listeners (or tell them yourself):

Vigil of the Assumption of Mary, August 14

Before the first reading:

The "ark of the Lord" in this account means an ornate, portable chest. In it the Israelites carried the stone tablets on which Moses had inscribed their covenant with God. We often speak of it as "the ark of the covenant." It was Israel's most sacred object.

After the psalm, before the second reading:

Some Christians in the rambunctious community of Corinth disputed the gospel teaching about the resurrection. Paul corrected them at length. This short, poetic passage sums up his teaching about the resurrection.

Before the gospel acclamation:

[no introduction]

First Reading, 1 Chronicles 15:3-4, 15-16; 16:1-2

The Historical Situation: The "ark of the Lord" was an ornate box containing the stone tablets inscribed with the Sinai covenant. Israel had always moved the ark around with them while they were a nomadic people. To bring it to a permanent place prepared for it in Jerusalem was to say, in effect, "Our wandering days are over. We have arrived!" This explains the degree of ceremony. During some of its history, the ark was surmounted by two statues of angels. The Israelites believed that God was present in a special way in the space above the angels. Thus the Old Testament sometimes praises God "enthroned above the cherubim."

Our Liturgical Setting: The church, believing that the Son of God took flesh in the womb of Mary, gives her the title "ark of the covenant," and uses this reading on her feast. The scene in today's reading is recapitulated in Luke 1:39-56, tomorrow's gospel passage. There the pregnant Mary, ark of the covenant, comes into the presence of Elizabeth, who cries out that the baby in her own womb is leaping for joy.

Proclaiming It: You should read with excitement. You're describing a very festive event. Let you voice convince the congregation that what they're hearing was of the greatest importance to ancient Israel.

Second Reading, 1 Corinthians 15:54b-57

The Historical Situation: All of chapter 15 of First Corinthians is about Christ's resurrection and our own. Some in Corinth had denied that believers are destined to rise from the dead, so Paul makes a long argument, of which today's reading is the finale (and tomorrow's is the kernel).

Proclaiming It: Of the sentences in this passage, the congregation is most likely to remember the taunting,

"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting."

Say these lines with enthusiasm and irony. You're on the winning side, baptized into the risen Christ! While I don't suggest you sing these lines, you could do some very classy preparation by listening to the musical setting of this text in Handel's Messiah, specifically the alto/tenor duet in Part Three.

Links to other smart commentaries on this week's readings

Credit for the picture at the top:

Artist unknown, until, I hope, a reader enlightens me.

A search-by-image in images.google.com yields only 2 instances of this, and neither web page gives credit.

By the way, I recommend The Web Gallery of Art, with thousands of images and a robust search feature. In this case, though, WGA did not yield anything about this artwork when I searched either "assumption" or "dormition."

This page updated June 15, 2018