Perhaps many historians one day will look upon 2022 as a significant moment in our era. We may reasonably claim that this year has been nothing short of a “barn burner.” I think of the following:
– Russia unjustly invaded Ukraine on February 24th;
– Pope Francis, along with the Bishops in union with him, consecrated Russia, Ukraine and all of humanity to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25th—the Solemnity of the Annunciation;
– This correspondent’s beloved mother died on May 27th;
– On the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, June 24th, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe v. Wade, its 1973 decision that legalized abortion, by issuing Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which surely must be one of the fruits of the aforesaid Collegial Consecration requested by Our Lady of Fatima on July 13, 1917.
With such fast-moving, consequential events, stability is required more than ever. The Church, by way of her teaching, presents the perennial truths that root us, providing a steadfast anchor that both comforts and challenges us. The Solemnity of the Assumption, which is commemorated by the Church every August 15th, offers such a truth for our reflection.
The actual dogma of Blessed Mary’s Assumption body and soul into Heaven was solemnly defined a relatively short time ago (November 1, 1950); nevertheless, the belief in this fascinating mystery has been cherished and upheld by the clergy, consecrated persons and lay faithful for centuries
When Pope Venerable Pius XII in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus (The Most Bountiful God), “that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory,” he readily acknowledged that “various testimonies, indications, and signs of this common belief of the Church are evident from remote times down through the course of the centuries.”
In particular, the Pontiff pointed to, among other notable theologians, a priest and subsequent Doctor of the Church who contributed significantly to the Church’s understanding of Our Lady’s reunion with her divine Son. Saint John Damascene (c. 690-749), venerated as “the last of the Greek Fathers,” was hailed by Pope Pius as “an outstanding herald of this traditional truth.”
What was so spectacular about this doctrine’s analysis bequeathed to millions of believers by Saint John of Damascus?
In two of his extant homilies, he compared Mary’s bodily Assumption to “her other prerogatives and privileges,” thereby demonstrating in eloquent fashion why this teaching in no way contradicted right reason and the tenets of Divine Revelation.
Composed more than 1,200 years ago, the panegyric authored by Saint John still moves hearts today and provides admirable instruction pertaining to the Madonna’s entrance into everlasting bliss. Listen to the wisdom of this Saint from the East:
“It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a Child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles.
It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to Himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her Heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped in the act of giving birth to Him, should look upon Him as He sits with the Father.
It was fitting that God’s Mother should possess what belongs to the Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the Handmaid of God.”
Why would the Blessed Trinity bestow upon a mere mortal the indescribable honor of possessing both body and soul now in paradise—not waiting, like the rest of redeemed humanity, until the Redeemer’s Second Coming? With unabashed simplicity and honesty, Saint John Damascene accepts the challenge represented by this enigma and deftly responds: “It was fitting.” As Mary enjoyed unfailing proximity to the Messiah during this life, it is right and proper for her to experience intimacy with Him even now in the next.
The reason that the Assumption inspires hope in the disciples of the Savior is that we have assurance that human beings have the opportunity to know, with the Holy Angels and Saints, the unutterable joys of unending life in Heaven. If we strive for the fidelity that marked the earthly days of the Virgin, then we also will one day partake both soul and body in the Beatific Vision that she now possesses. Where Jesus and Mary are now, we hope to follow.
Like any divinely-revealed mystery, the meaning and relevance of the magnificent truth of the Catholic Faith known as the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother body and soul into Heaven cannot be exhausted.
Our Blessed Lady is now in Paradise, where she prays for us to her Divine Son, Jesus Christ, and awaits our triumphant entry into the unceasing Kingdom—the “New Jerusalem”—for which each of us rightly pines.
The Assumption reminds us how close Mary was—and remains—to Jesus. She completely submitted her will to the Divine Plan. The Lord God raised this obedient woman on high, granting her a fitting place next to Christ. It was appropriate that as Our Lady continually cooperated with Jesus on earth, she should now be close to Him in Heaven, thereby inheriting the prize promised by her Son: Everlasting Life in the presence of the Most Blessed Trinity. As Christ was victorious over Satan, so was His Holy Mother.
Let us never forget that the Assumption discloses how our Creator looks upon our human bodies. These are not mere “holding tanks” for our souls but are crucial in themselves. My body is a distinctive feature of who I am as a human person and as a member of the Mystical Body of Christ.
Furthermore, the Assumption impresses upon us that Mary, now glorified in Heaven, is the image of how the Church will one day appear. Our Lady in her splendor is the image and the model of the Church.
Some other truths that are related to the dogma of the Assumption:
+Mary’s Motherhood is universal in scope;
+Our Lady’s intercession is powerful and certain;
+Mary is the Queen of the Angels and the Queen of the Saints in Paradise;
+The Madonna is the Mother of the Church;
+The Ever-Virgin is particularly close to the Poor Souls in Purgatory;
+We possess a sacred responsibility to venerate, love, invoke and imitate Our Blessed Lady.
The Assumption was not only God’s gift to Mary; it was also His gift to us. Let us give thanks for this remarkable treasure and seek to comprehend better what it means for Our Blessed Mother and for us.