In the book of Genesis, humanity is created in the image and likeness of God. Humanity will only reach its fulfilment when it lives up to its calling as a perfect image of its creator.
At the moment of the incarnation, humanity reaches its climax; in the person of Jesus, humanity is not simply an image and likeness of God, but God himself.
God created humanity for himself, but through sin, we destroy the bridge that links us with God. Only God could return humanity to its original destiny. Jesus is the bridge that heals humanity and links us to God.
When Jesus returns to the Father, at his Ascension, he takes with him human nature. Now humanity is not simply made to look like God, but lives in God. Salvation brought about by Jesus is a holistic salvation; God is not interested in saving souls, but all of humanity. In God there is no distinction between body and soul, God sees us as his image and likeness.
The feast of the Assumption of Mary is the continuation and the fulfilment of this mystery of the Incarnation. “Christ is the first-fruits and then, those who belong to him….” (cf 1Co 15:23). Mary, the mother who gave birth to God here on earth, certainly deserves to experience the fullness of this salvation her son achieved for us all; she is the first human to enjoy the completeness of salvation, being in God’s presence body and soul.
This is the mystery Joseph De Piro continually preached by his example and in his sermons.
The founder proposed the Assumption of Mary as patron of the society.
On 1st August 1909, in preparation for the foundation of his society, De Piro drafted a formula to be read by the members as part of their religious profession. In this formula he refers to ‘Mary Assumed into heaven.’
On 12th June 1910, De Piro invited Archbishop Peter Pace to open and bless the first house of the society. During his speech, the founder again mentioned ‘Our mother, Mary Assumed into heaven.’
On 17th April 1928, during one of the meetings of the council of the society, De Piro invited Fr Joseph Spiteri and Fr Michael Callus, his two assistants, to discuss the opening of a novitiate for the lay-brothers, catechists in the society. On 4th August of the same year, it was decided to open this novitiate at St Joseph’s Orphanage in Malta, dedicated to the ‘Blessed Virgin Assumed into heaven,’ on the 15th of August. In the minutes of this meeting, Callus, secretary of the council, added that Mary Assumed into heaven was the ‘principal patron of the society.’ These minutes were, in turn, signed by De Piro.
On 11th August 1928, De Piro again asked his assistants to consider the establishment of a house for those hoping to join the society. This ‘educandato’ at the Oratory in Birkirkara, was to be called ‘Educandato Santa Maria.’ The title ‘Santa Maria’ is the Maltese title for Mary’s Assumption.
In the almanac published by the society, De Piro referred to the devotion to the Assumption of Mary: ‘… in the chapel we celebrate her feast day under the title of the Assumption; a title which has brought a multitude of graces on to the society.’
Years later, in the same almanac, De Piro wrote:
“In our missionary society we offered floral tributes to Our Lady through a literary academy prepared by the students living at the Oratory in Birkirkara. At the end of the academy we made a resolution to make our wish known to the diocesan bishop, to place another pearl in the crown of Mary, Our Most Holy Mother, through the declaration of the dogma of the glorious Assumption of Mary ….”
And, in the 1933 edition of the almanac:
“We chose Mary Assumed into heaven as our most cherished patron, because, since the beginning of the society, we have been blessed with her intercession. Since the society began in the island of St Paul, we felt compelled to venerate her under the title of ‘Santa Maria.’ Following a very ancient custom, throughout the Maltese islands, the Assumption of Mary into heaven is venerated under this title.
When years later we decided upon the opening of a residence for those wanting to join our society, we could not think of a better name than that of ‘Santa Maria.’ During the centenary year of the Council of Ephesus, we dedicated the first academy held at this residence in honour of the Blessed Virgin. Despite being small in number, at the conclusion of this academy, we adopted a declaration requesting the bishop to ask the pope to promote the dogmatic definition of the Assumption of the Blessed virgin, how and whenever he deemed fit.”
In the last writing quoted above, the Servant of God declared that his reason for choosing the title of Mary’s Assumption for the society was because of the special veneration of this title in the Maltese islands. Yet, Our Lady is venerated under many other titles on the islands. Notwithstanding, De Piro preferred to offer the mystery of the Assumption to the members of his missionary society. Despite the fact that in 1950, Pope Pius XII proclaimed as dogma that “… the ever Immaculate Virgin Mary, after her life here on earth, was assumed to the glory of heaven, body and soul .…” the belief of the Church in this mystery has a long history. It is probable that the Servant of God chose to celebrate this particular Marian feast with his society because it embodied his belief that the whole human person was glorified.