The Assumption of Mary
May he enlighten your innermost vision that you may know the great hope to which he has called you, the wealth of his glorious heritage to be distributed among the members of the church, and the immeasurable scope of his power in us who believe. Ephesians 1:18-19
Maximilian Kolbe, whose feast was celebrated yesterday, had a tremendous devotion to Our Blessed Mother and promoted devotion to Mary by all the communications instruments available in His day. He wrote this great bit of spiritual Advice in a letter:
We should let ourselves be guided and led by Mary and rest quiet and secure in her hands. She will watch out for us, provide for us, answer our needs of body and spirit; she will dissolve all our difficulties and worries.
From the early years of the Church, long before its infallible definition by Pope Pius XII in 1950, the feast of Mary’s Assumption into heaven, body and soul, has been celebrated in the Church as a most solemn and joyous liturgy. Just as devoted children cannot forget the birthday of their human mother, or the happy events surrounding her life on earth, long after she is taken from this world, so the sons and daughters of the Church cannot but celebrate the great events which encompass the life of Mary, her Immaculate Conception, her giving birth to Christ while remaining a Virgin, her standing by the Cross in union with, communion with the suffering of her Son, and her marvelous triumph over death in union with her Son, as she was assumed into heaven, body and soul.
No one in this world was ever closer to our Divine Savior than his beloved Mother. She intimately shared both His joys and sorrows, but in a most special way His sorrows, for He was, according to Isaiah and the Gospels, a man of suffering. No mother who deeply loves her children can escape this aspect of motherhood, suffering with her children when they suffer, and Mary was truly the most loving of all mothers in this world. So when Christ suffered more than any member of our race has ever suffered, especially when he bore our sins to the Cross, so did Mary also suffer with him, as no other mother has ever suffered in this world. Her maternal role carried right through to the end, and her heart was pierced by the same sword of fire that pierced His heart.
The Church has never forgotten this maternal suffering of Mary next to the Cross of Jesus, and for that very reason there is a strong tradition that Mary freely chose to undergo death in union with her Son who died before her eyes. But in an even more authoritative part of Tradition, expressed in theological expositions and in liturgical celebrations and art through the ages, the Church has never forgotten another even more wonderful aspect of Mary’s union with her Son, that is, that she who suffered so greatly with her Son was also privileged to share the triumph of his resurrection. We know through Sacred Tradition that Mary was assumed body and soul into Heaven without her sacred body undergoing any touch of corruption as a result of her death. She who was immaculate in body and soul throughout her earthly existence was not to suffer the least corruption of her body when she passed through death to the glory of Heaven.
The great Fathers and Doctors of the Church loved to dwell on this beautiful aspect of the mystery of Mary, and the reasons they constantly adduced to support this doctrine were two: first, that she who suffered with Christ as no other person did, would also triumph with Christ as no other person, her assumption being the fitting reward of her unique sharing in the passion of her Son. The second reason they gave was equally sound, and was simply this: that God would not allow the flesh of Mary, which was the source of Christ’s own saving flesh and blood, to undergo any corruption, just as by His unique grace her soul was never sullied by the stain of sin. She was to be forever, the Immaculate Bride in body and soul.
But beyond the sheer joy of recalling and celebrating this great privilege of our spiritual mother Mary, we her children must also see this feast as yet another powerful affirmation by God of the goodness and permanent destiny of the human body, for man will forever give glory to his creator in both sides of his nature, in body and soul.
We live in an age and culture that falsely revels in and degrades the flesh by reducing the body to a mere instrument of sensual pleasure. Our culture effectively despises the body by simply using it for whatever ends we choose, as a disposable and less worthy part of human nature.
The Church, therefore, once again must assert the truth of the goodness of all God’s creation, and the eternal destiny of the body as well as of the soul. She does so by proclaiming the truth that Mary is in heaven in her body, not just in her soul, and so there can remain no question that the human body takes part in the future life in God. Mary’s present state is our future, and her Assumption proclaims that our future includes a true resurrection of the flesh and a bodily sharing in the beatitude that is by its very nature something spiritual. As St. Paul declares in I Cor 6:13, The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. Christianity alone professes the full truth about man, the true meaning of man’s nature, including the body, and the destiny of the total man as the eternal dwelling place of God. Christianity alone gives full weight and dignity to human nature in its totality. The body is for the Lord, and it is forever for the Lord
So we pray today in heartfelt love and joy, “Hail Mary, bright dawn of the future of God’s holy people. Today we honor you in your Assumption in body and soul to our homeland, and we ask for your special intercession that we may always glorify the Lord in our bodies and in our souls, as you did on earth, and that we may honor the flesh that God gave us and took from us to Heaven, as we make our way to that tremendous and glorious event which you, Our Blessed Mother, experienced in passing from this world. Holy Mary, Holy Mother of God, pray for us, your children.