Lector's Notes
Feast of the
Assumption of Mary
August 15, annually
Lectionary index 622

Click the image to see the artist's credit. Church of the Assumption, Bled, Slovenia

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

Feast of the Assumption of Mary, August 15, annually

Before the first reading:

The book of Revelation was written to encourage persecuted Christians to keep the faith. Its language is highly symbolic, partly to disguise its meanings from the persecutors. The "ark of God's covenant" mentioned in the first sentence refers to the ornate box in which ancient Israel had carried the stone tablets of their covenant with the Lord.

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. In this passage, he connects the resurrection of all the dead with God's final judgment of the world.

Before the gospel acclamation:

In Saint Luke's gospel, women are typically models of faith. In this passage from early in the gospel, both Mary and her kinswoman Elizabeth are surprisingly with child. The elder woman affirms the younger's faith.

First Reading, Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-a, 10ab

The Historical Situation: The book of Revelation is never easy to interpret. But we can say with confidence that the last thing to try to discern in it is any prediction about the future. It's much wiser to interpret the book with these assumptions: Its original audience were persecuted Christians, the book's symbolic language expressed things in a code that Christians could understand but their persecutors could not, and that the purpose of the book was to bolster the faith of the persecuted. As with all Scripture, the best way to read it today is to ask these questions:

That said, the woman in today's reading is symbolic of the church, and her offspring represents the way the church brings Christ into the world. The dragon represents the world's resistance to Christ and the truths that the church proclaims.

The "ark of [God's] covenant" in the first sentence means this. While Moses was leading the Hebrew escapees from Egypt to the promised land, God made a covenant with them, inscribing it on stone tablets. These stones were to be carried in an ornate chest, or ark, of acacia wood and gold. See Exodus, chapter 25. That ark became Israel's most sacred object.

The Lectionary passage leaves out a few sentences about a battle, Revelation 12:6b-9 in which God's angels triumph over those of Satan. This leads into the last quoted sentence, the victorious proclamation by the loud voice.

Proclaiming It: Read this dramatically, and make the last paragraph sound victorious.

Second Reading, 1 Corinthians 15:20-27

The Theological Background: 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 kernel.

Proclaiming It: What makes this appropriate for proclamation today is the conclusion. So emphasize the parts about Christ's ultimate victory over death.

 

Links to other smart commentaries on this week's readings

Credit for the picture at the top:

Church of the Assumption of Mary, Bled Island, Slovenia. The photo is one of 12 stunning images from the website Vishwa Gujarat, an online English-language and Gujarati-language newpaper based in India.

Lector's Notes should be easily readable on any device, including small-screen ones like cell phones and tablets. This is among the first of a few hundred pages to be converted to a responsive format (responsive to the kind of screen you are using). So when you're not serving as lector, and you arrive at church and mute your cell phone, you can brief yourself on the readings you're about to hear. Format conversion is a work-in-progress and will be so until maybe April of 2018.

This page updated August 1, 2016