Monday, August 14, 2006

Maria Assumpta Est! (Mary is Assumed!)

Tomorrow (August 15) is the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven.
A great way to celebrate this wonderful feast day (besides attending Mass—this is a Holy Day of obligation, remember) is to take a little time to study the Church's teaching on the dogma of the Assumption.
OK, here is a test for how well you know your faith. Can you explain what this doctrine is?

Let's go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church for help:

966. “Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as the Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death” [Lumen Gentium 59, Pius XII Munificentissimus Deus (1950)]. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son's Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians.

Did you get all that? OK, let's analyze this piece by piece.

1.“the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin:

This, of course, is the central Marian dogma—the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. By a unique and singular grace of God, Mary was kept from the stain of Original Sin... This was a GIFT from God: it was the result of the grace of God... the grace that would come as result of Jesus Christ's passion, death, and resurrection.
You might ask, how could God give grace to Mary BEFORE Jesus won that grace for her on the Cross in Cavlary. Remember, God is eternal... God is not bound by time, He is outside of time. God has the power to apply to any man or woman the grace that will result from a future event. At any rate, Mary was conceived free from all stain of original Sin (just as Adam and Eve were), SO THAT she could be COMPLETELY FREE to say YES or NO at the Annunciation. If Mary was burdened with Original Sin, she would have been (like the rest of us), slaves to sin, slaves inclined to doing our own will rather than the will of God.

2. “When the course of her earthly life was finished:

The dogma as stated does not say definitively whether or not Mary died, and then was assumed body and soul to heaven... or whether she was just taken up without having to actually undergo death. This is a matter of theological speculation, people are free to entertain their own theories because it not defined as part of the dogma. Note also that Jesus “ascended” (went up) into heaven by his own power—as God. Mary, was “assumed”... drawn up to heaven by the power of God... not by her own power. Although she is the most perfect of creatures--the Immaculate, Mary is still a creature, after all. Do not get that aspect of the “assumption” and the “ascension” confused as some do. Remember also, that the Bible speaks of two previous “assumptions” into heaven: Enoch (Gen 5:24) and Elijah (the fiery chariot—2 Kings 2:11).

3. “so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death” ...
4. “a singular participation in her Son's Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians.”

What happened to Mary is unique (a singular gift). She is the only one who is PERFECTLY in God's presence (not just her soul, but she is complete as a person—soul AND glorified body, living in communion with the Holy Trinity in heaven). The other saints are in God's presence in heaven, but the consummation/perfection of their heavenly life will come at the end of time—with the Resurrection of the dead, when everyone has their bodies restored to them. Jesus loved His mother so much, and they were so close, that he gave Mary an “advance payment” you can say... she is enjoying the full fruits of His victory over death now. We are all destined to be conformed to Jesus Christ—that has already begun with our baptism, and it is nourished every time we receive the sacraments. But, Mary is already fully conformed to Jesus. So, this dogma of the Assumption teaches us about Mary's existence body and soul into heaven so that we can look to her as a sign of our future hope. What she is now, glorified in heaven, in the presence of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—we one day can hope to be! Praise God!

The newly published Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states this last point nicely:

199. In what way is the Blessed Virgin Mary the eschatological icon of the Church?
Looking upon Mary, who is completely holy and already glorified in body and soul, the Church contemplates in her what she herself is called to be on earth and what she will be in the homeland of heaven.

[“eschatological” is a theological term that refers to the phenomena associated with the end of time, what we traditionally refer to as the 4 “last things”--Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell. “eschata” is Greek for “last things”]


Check out this article on the Assumption:

Understand and Explain the Assumption to your non-Catholic Christian friends:

You can listen to an MP file of a radio program on the Assumption (Catholic Answers Live):
Go to August 15 on the callendar, "Maria Assumpta Est"

Here is a homily by doctor of the Church St. John Damascene (d. 749)

This reading on the Assumption of Mary is taken from the first homily of St. John Damascene on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“But even though, according to nature, your most holy and happy soul is separated from your most blessed and stainless body and the body as usual is delivered to the tomb, it will not remain in the power of death and is not subject to decay. For just as her virginity remained inviolate while giving birth, when she departed her body was preserved from destruction and only taken to a better and more divine tabernacle, which is not subject to any death . . . Hence I will call her holy passing not death, but falling asleep or departure, or better still, arrival. . . .

"Your stainless and wholly immaculate body has not been left on earth; the Queen, the Mistress, the Mother of God who has truly given birth to God has been translated to the royal palaces of heaven. .

"Angels and archangels have borne you upwards, the impure spirits of the air have trembled at your ascension. The air is purified, the ether sanctified by your passing through them. . . the powers meet you with sacred hymns and much solemnity, saying something like this: Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, elect like the sun? [cf. Cant 6:9] How you have blossomed forth, how sweet you have become! You are the flower of the field, a lily among the thorns [Cant 2.1] . . . Not like Elijah have you entered heaven, not like Paul have you been rapt to the third heaven; no, you have penetrated even to the royal throne of your Son himself . . . a blessing for the world, a sanctification of the universe, refreshment for those who are tired, comfort for the sorrowing, healing for the sick, a port for those in danger, pardon for sinners, soothing balm for the oppressed, quick help for all who pray to you. . .

“Good Mistress, graciously look down on us; direct and guide our destinies wheresoever you will. Pacify the storm of our wicked passions, guide us into the quiet port of the divine will and grant us the blessedness to come.”

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