Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Fr. Vinner)
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We honor Mary, venerate her, express our love for her and never worship her. Why do we honor Mary: 1) Mary herself gives the most important reason in her “Magnificat:” “All generations (ages) will call me blessed because the “The Mighty One has done great things for me” a) by choosing Mary as the mother of Jesus b) by filling her with His Holy Spirit twice, namely at the Annunciation and at Pentecost, c) by making her “full of grace,” the paragon or embodiment of all virtues, d) by allowing her to become the most active participant with Christ, her Son, in our Redemption, by suffering in mind what Jesus suffered in body. 2) Mary is our Heavenly Mother. Jesus gave us his Mother as our Mother from the cross: “Woman, behold your son.” … “Behold your mother” (John 19: 26-27). 3) Mary is the supreme model of all virtues and hence our role model, especially holiness of life (“full of grace”), obedience to the will of God (“fiat”) and true humility (“Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me as you have said”).
On November 1, 1950, Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary to be a dogma of faith: “We pronounce, declare and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that the immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul to heavenly glory.” The Pope proclaimed this dogma only after a broad consultation of bishops, theologians and laity. What the Pope solemnly declared was already a common belief in the Catholic Church. For hundreds of years, Catholics observed the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15, celebrating Mary’s being taken bodily to Heaven after her death. We have no real knowledge of the day, year, and manner of Our Lady’s death. The dates which have been assigned to her death vary between three and fifteen years after Christ’s Ascension. Mary’s tomb was presumably found in Jerusalem. It is believed that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that after her burial, her tomb, when opened, was found empty. Therefore, they concluded that her body had been taken up (assumed) into heaven. Saint Gregory of Tour provided a rationale for the tradition: since Mary has been preserved from original sin, it is inconceivable to think her sinless body, should decay in the grave.
The Assumption is the oldest celebrated feast day of Our Lady, but its origin is lost in those days when Jerusalem was restored as a sacred city, at the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine. What was clear from the beginning was that there were no relics of Mary to be venerated. In the church all the feast days of Mary mark the great mysteries of her life and her part in the work of redemption. The central mystery of her life and person is her divine motherhood, celebrated both at Christmas and a week later. The Immaculate Conception marks the preparation for that motherhood. The Assumption completes God’s work in her since it was not fitting that the flesh that had given life to God himself should ever undergo corruption. The Assumption is God’s crowning of His work as Mary ends her earthly life and enters eternity. The feast turns our eyes in that direction, where we will follow when our earthly life is over. There is an important difference, of course, between the ascension of Jesus into Heaven after His Resurrection, and the assumption of Mary. To ascend is to rise up under one’s own power; while to be assumed means something that is done to one. Jesus, being the Second Person of the Trinity, had no need of assistance; whereas Mary did not have this power. She was assumed into heaven because of the privilege she enjoyed as the Mother of God and the fact that she was totally sinless and she was rewarded by God for this act. The feast days look to the present and to the future and give us an insight into our own relationship with God.
Pope Benedict XVI tells us that the feast of the Assumption is a day of joy because God has won, Love has won, and it has won life. Love has shown that it is stronger than death, that God possesses the true strength and that his strength is goodness and love. Mary was taken up body and soul into heaven: There is even room in God for the body. Heaven is no longer a very remote sphere unknown to us. We have a Mother in heaven. And the Mother of God, the Mother of the Son of God, is our Mother. He himself has said so. He made her our Mother when he said to the disciple and to all of us: “Behold, your Mother!” Mary is taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven, and with God and in God she is Queen of heaven and earth. Precisely because she is with God and in God, she is very close to each one of us. She always listens to us, she is always close to us, and being Mother of the Son, participates in the power of the Son and in his goodness. On this feast day, let us thank the Lord for the gift of the Mother, and let us pray to Mary to help us find the right path every day. Today we join Mary in her happiness. We look forward to the day when we too can share it with her.
Life messages: 1) As Mary’s Assumption was a reward for a holy life, this feast invites us to keep our bodies pure and holy. Paul gives three additional reasons: a) our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, b) our body parts are the members of Christ’s Body, and c) our bodies are to be glorified on the day of the Last Judgment.
2) We are given an assurance of hope in our resurrection and a source of inspiration during moments of despair and temptations.
3) We receive a message of total liberation from all our bondages: impure, unjust and uncharitable thoughts, desires, words and actions, addiction to evil habits, drugs, alcohol and gambling, pornography and sexual aberrations.
May God Bless us.
FR. S.Vinner HGN