Mary’s Assumption Maps our Own Pilgrim Journey

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maryThis year, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary once again presented a golden opportunity to reconsider the person of the Ever-Virgin Mary and her mission in the Church. I wanted to give consideration to God the Father who chose her to be the Mother of His only begotten Son and learn from the relationship Mary enjoys with the three Persons of the Most Blessed Trinity.

Mary and God, the Father

If Christianity is the quality or character that is based on the person and teachings of Jesus Christ, then Mary is rightly honored as the first disciple of the Lord Jesus. Mary was the first to have faith in Christ Jesus; to believe that He is the Son of God, the Anointed One, and the Messiah. Since faith in Jesus Christ makes us sons of the Father (Galatians 3:26), then the Church is right in hailing Mary as the “first-born” daughter of the Father.

We know God the Father created Mary, just as He also created us. Mary is, therefore, “one of us” because she is fully human. In a similar vein in which she is His daughter, we also, are children of the Almighty God. Inasmuch as we rely on God for our very existence, so, too, does Mary, our Immaculate Mother. We must, however, acknowledge that Mary has a special relationship with God the Father. As Venerable Pius IX (1846-1878) put it in his Apostolic Constitution, Ineffabilis Deus (December 8, 1854), the Father did will to give His only-begotten Son who is one with Him (John 10:30) and with whom the Father is so well pleased ( Mark 1:11) in such a way that He would be one and the same common Son of God the Father and Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary most certainly was specially chosen for this purpose of God (Romans 8:30).

In order to carry this function to fruition, God the Father gave many overwhelming spiritual riches to Mary, who was declared to be full of grace (Luke 1:28). These certainly strengthened her in living her inspiring vocation as the Mother of His Son ( Luke 1:31–32). The greatest gift He gave her was that of the Lord Jesus. In her turn, Mary imitated the Father in raising Jesus from before infancy and unto sinless mature manhood ( Luke 2:52). We affirm that Jesus experienced the best of all gifts which His Mother faithfully imparted to Him. And this we know to be the boundless love of His Beloved Father because the Son of Mary came to experience the love of His Mother which was patterned after that of His Father. 

It is interesting to note that the Lord Jesus Christ is the link between the Father and Mary. Most offspring rely on both their father and mother for multiple and varied things. The Messiah willed to come forth from Mary and be dependent on her and Saint Joseph for his earthly needs. As they served as earthly parents and guardians in the Holy Family of Nazareth, Mary, and her loving husband came to discover their purpose in the Divine Child. In Jesus, they each found their identity in the earthly life, even unto everlasting life.

From her Immaculate Conception to her glorious Assumption (and even now!), Mary never lost her sense of utter dependence on the Father. She gave up her independence to become totally dependent; to become absolute potential; to be completely empty so that God could do great things in her. Although she was chosen to be the Virgin Mother of Emmanuel (God with us), she always recalled that she needed God each moment of her life. She declares in the Magnificat that, “the Mighty One has done great things for me” ( Luke 1:49); for she was entirely convinced God alone is the source of all we are and all that we have. 

We know God never does anything without a sufficient and the most excellent of reasons. We then must conclude that His choice of Mary as the Mother of the Master does have certain spiritual ramifications for we, who are the brothers and sisters of Jesus. We learn from Mary, how to love the Omnipotent One as we ought. This fully human being of the same “stuff” as we exemplify for us how we are to cooperate with God in His Purposes. We must implore her powerful intercession in learning how to love the Holy Trinity as she does, even though we acknowledge our many weaknesses. 

What is common to all of us is that the Father has a plan for our lives that we are to yield to immediately if we wish to be content. Just imagine what Mary would have missed if she had refused the Lord’s invitation. She readily accepted to become the Mother of Jesus, totally submitting to His unfathomable will. It is only in Jesus Christ that we discover our identity and are filled with authentic happiness. Then our souls likewise magnify the Lord and our spirits rejoice in God our Saviour. Just as Mary is formed in the Word of God, so are we when we allow the Redeemer to teach us the truth about Himself, His Father, the Paraclete, His Mother, and ourselves, in His Sacred Word.

God expects obedience of us (Deuteronomy 11:26-28), but He will never compel us to consent to his desires. And not all of God’s desires are accomplished, even though He so much wants us to consent to them. God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4). He does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance ( 2 Peter 3:9). Yet, there are many who while seeing, do not perceive; and while hearing, they do not understand (Romans 11:8). Like Mary, He gives us the freedom to choose what we want.

Mary and God, the Holy Spirit

Mary saw in Christ the splendor of truth. Throughout His earthly Ministry, she suffered intensely, especially on Calvary. However, no matter how challenging it was, her pure soul remained immersed in joy because she courageously adhered to the designs of the Lord. This was possible because of the Holy Spirit who came upon her and overshadowed her (Luke 1:35). It is the Holy Spirit who granted her an abiding indescribable tranquility. The Father who sent His Son to Mary through the power of the Consoler invites us, just as He did Mary, to find in Jesus the answer to all our questions and the balm to all the illnesses of our souls. We can, on our part, seek to imitate in some way, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, Mary’s sublime love of the Father. If we wholeheartedly accept of His love and compassion as the Mother of Christ did, then we too will flourish spiritually in our day; and continue to do so in eternity, just as Mary was assumed into Heaven. 

The Relevance of Mary’s Assumption in our Daily Lives

The Assumption of Mary is deeply rooted in Scripture. St. Paul is adamant in the claim that we are destined to share in Christ’s Resurrection. But we must first grow into union with him through a death like his so that we can also be united with him in the resurrection ( Romans 6:5). We may also come to know him and the power of his resurrection in the sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death (Philippians 3:10). We believe that Christ experienced a bodily resurrection from the dead and ascended, while still in bodily form, to heaven. Therefore, the Assumption of Mary confirms that this extraordinary reversal of death is not limited to Christ alone. Mary is in heaven, body, and soul means we who share in her humanity also can.

St. Paul teaches that the last enemy to be destroyed is death (1 Corinthians 15:26). The book of Daniel speaks of a future bodily resurrection, where many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2). The Lord Jesus spoke about it (John 5:29), and St. Paul affirms it (Acts 24:15). Our hope is for a physical resurrection, we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, and also groan within ourselves as we await adoption, which is the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23).

The dogma of the Assumption of Mary emphasizes bodily assumption, which reminds us that salvation is holistic. This means that God does not just save the “soul-half” of us, and throw away the body part. No! Our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within us, whom we have received from God, and so we are not our own. We have been purchased at a price, and we must then glorify God in our bodies (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Our salvation is in the fullness of our humanity (i.e. body and soul), because the body is for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body (1 Corinthians 6:13b).

In Old Testament times, most people ended up in Sheol (Hades) and only a few are reported to have managed to go to Heaven (Enoch, Elijah, and Moses). The Heaven of the New Testament comes to clarity and is confirmed in the Assumption of Mary as a place where the saints experience the presence of God (Hebrews 12:1). She is the first one to enter heaven under the New Covenant. In a way, Mary opens up heaven for the rest of the saints, just as she opened up the earth to the fullness of God’s incarnate Presence.

It is thus no surprise that the Church teaches that Mary shares in Christ’s lot when we consider her role as the New Eve to that of Jesus as the New Adam (Romans 5:19), and also looking at it from Simeon’s prophecy (Luke 2:25-35) and her presence at the crucifixion (John 19:25).  Mary’s Assumption to heaven signifies the final reversal of the evils of sin and death that were unleashed by the Fall. We are so certain that Mary is in heaven with Jesus because Jesus is the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in Him, even if the person dies, will surely live. And everyone who lives and believes in the Lord Jesus will never die (John 11:25–26). Mary believed; Mary lives!

The Lord Jesus Christ was both divine and human. He went about doing good and many times invited his disciples to work with Him. He is not a solitary Saviour. God Himself wanted Mary to share in the life of the only begotten Son (Luke 1:31-33). When He wanted John to be filled with the Holy Spirit, He inspired Mary to visit with Elizabeth; and, at her greeting both Elizabeth and baby John are filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41). At the wedding in Cana, Jesus performs the miracle of wine at the behest of Mary (John 2:1-12). They surely were a formidable team. After the Ascension, Jesus, in His divinity, enjoys the communion of the Trinity; and in His humanity, he reigns from heaven with his Mother (Proverbs 31:1, Jeremiah 13:18 & 1 Kings 2:19-21).

All Marian veneration is centered on Christ. The Assumption reminds us that there are no bones or tombs or relics of Our Lady that we can venerate. However, we cannot think of her without thinking of her being in the fullness of Christ’s heavenly presence. Now that she is in Heaven, we are assured that Mary is uniquely positioned to help us ( Revelation 5:8 & Revelation 8:3-4). The Assumption in body and soul ensures that she is not deprived of the beatific vision by not being in bodily form. If she was lacking her bodily form, it would be an unnatural state, lacking perfection, so that she would be denied the fullness of happiness. In order to see God’s glory reflected in other creatures, a soul must have its body ( St. Thomas Aquinas).

Mary’s body is a source of so much of her power. In the Incarnation, God took flesh from Mary and was born through her body. Thus, Mary has everything she needs to see our problems (even our potential for holiness) and to help us grow into little Christs. She is not a disembodied soul, neither is she a spirit flitting about in paradise. Mary’s Beauty in Heaven is perfected (Revelation 12). The beauty that became espoused to the Holy Spirit lives in her fullness in heaven. This is why the Church venerates Mary above all other saints, marking her Assumption as a Solemnity

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