August 15: The Assumption of our Blessed Virgin Mary
Readings: Apocalypse 11:19;12:1-6.10; 1 Cor. 15:20-26; Luke 1:39-56
This Sunday we joyfully celebrate the feast of the Glorious Assumption of Mary into heaven. From the very beginning the Church had believed this truth but it was defined by Pope Pius XII only as recently as 1950. The definition states: The Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, when her earthly life was over. This carefully chosen little phrase doesn’t really tell us when or whether Mary died. Some theologians believe that since Revelation presents death as a punishment for Original Sin, from which Mary was preserved through her Immaculate Conception, it would be improper for her to experience death. Pope John Paul II however says: Having been closely associated with Christ's redemptive work, it was fitting for Mary to share the experience of death before partaking of the Resurrection…… since Christ died, it would be difficult to maintain the contrary for his Mother.... The Mother is not superior to the Son who underwent death, giving it a new meaning and changing it into a means of salvation. In any event the Church teaches without ambiguity that the Immaculate Virgin, by a special privilege, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory at the end of her earthly life. We celebrate our hope for our own Christian destiny, and with Mary we proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Years ago there was a movie about a natural disaster that caused the community featured to completely change its life. At the conclusion of the movie, instead of the usual “The End” on the screen, it showed “The Beginning.” We can say that the end of Mary’s earthly life marked the beginning of her new life of interceding for us in heaven. Mary’s Assumption shows us, first of all the conclusion of a life of fidelity. Her life is a pledge of that fullness of salvation in Christ is available for all of us. Where Mary has gone, we too hope to follow. The passage in St. Luke describes the meeting between the Mary and her cousin Elizabeth, who are joyfully exchanging words of compliments and greetings. In a sense, this meeting prefigures the feast of Mary's Assumption and arrival in heaven, body and soul. She thus becomes a sign of the Church on earth, on its way to fulfilment in Christ, foreshadowing our destiny in heaven. The purpose of celebrating the feast of the Assumption of Mary is to show how Mary's privileges are associated with the glory of her Son. "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb" (Lk. 1:42). Mary is blessed because her Son is blessed. But above all, Mary's central place in the Church is based on her deep faith in God. With this faith she welcomed the annunciation, accepting to be the Mother of God. "Yes blessed is she who believed that the promise made by the Lord would be fulfilled" (Lk.1:45). Mary was always on her pilgrimage of faith, deepening it each moment of her life, as she walked towards the cross and to the resurrection of her Son.
That journey of faith, which finally ended in the Assumption is already marked by Mary's deep awareness of how privileged she is by God. That is why she sings the Magnificat on the occasion of her visit, while Elizabeth is filled with admiration for Mary. In this beautiful scene, Mary contemplates in wonder, before God, who looks upon His lowly handmaid and extends his mercy from generation to generation on all who are open to receive salvation. The Assumption shows us that the body follows the soul. In the end, we like Mary will be raised to be reunited with our souls. In the Assumption of Mary, we see that our hope, our limitations, our inner brokenness, our isolation will all be healed and fulfilled in Christ. Our deepest hungers on earth cannot be satisfied by earthly things but only by God. What message do we take home? 1) The end of Mary’s earthly life of fidelity marks the beginning of her new life of interceding for us in heaven; 2) In the First Reading from the Book of Revelations Mary is the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and crowned with twelve stars. In her escape from the wrath of the dragon (the enemy), we are reassured that Mary is with us always in our battles of our life with the enemy, the last enemy being death; first conquered in Christ, then in Mary; 3) Mary’s life is a pledge that the fullness of salvation in Christ is available for all of us, for where Mary has gone, we too hope to follow.. 4) Finally, Mary is the leader of a huge procession of people into salvation, where they are united with the triune God forever.
©2010 John S. Mbinda