Today’s Feast – The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

our-lady-of-assumptionThis Holy Day of Obligation, we celebrate on August 15th of every year. This day was originally celebrated in the East, where it is known as the Feast of Dormition. Dormition literally means “the falling asleep”, therefore, this day is also known as the “Falling Asleep of the Blessed Virgin Mary”. Although there is no mention of the Assumption of Mary in the Bible, there is a document entitled “The Falling Asleep of the Holy Mother of God” which was written in the words of the Apostle John (to whom Christ entrusted the care of His mother). This document, dated from the 4th century, is considered to be the earliest printed reference to the belief that Mary’s body was assumed into heaven. Turning to the definition of the Assumption (MGHC 58), the phrase “having completed the course of her earthly life” is intended to leave open the question of whether Mary died. It is true that the original title of the feast was “Dormition,” which suggests the description of death as a “falling asleep.” However, the belief that Mary died and was then raised from the dead is not so common and consistent in the tradition as to warrant including this belief in the dogma of her Assumption. What is common in the tradition is that her complete person, both body and soul, was taken into heavenly glory. In other words, her Assumption means that she already enjoys what all Christians hope to receive at the resurrection of the body. – Response to ‘Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ’

On the Sunday before Pentecost we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord. So why do we call this day the Ascension of the Lord and we celebrate the Assumption of Mary, and not the Ascension of Mary? If you look up the word ascension it is defined as “the act of rising or increasing to higher levels, values, or degrees”. Where assumption is defined as “the taking up of a person into heaven” and another definition states that assumption is “the act of laying claim to or taking possession of something ”. When we take time to look at these words more closely, we can better understand the difference. Jesus ascended to heaven transfigured with His glorified body. Mary, Jesus’ first disciple, becomes the first to share in this same bodily resurrection which also awaits us, as we will be “taken up to heaven” and shall also claim our inheritance.

Mary played such an important role in the church and continued after the death of Jesus. Mary’s role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it. After Jesus’ ascension, Mary aided the beginning of the Church by her prayers and also implored the gift of the Holy Spirit through her prayers so that others might receive these gifts as she had already received in the Annunciation. In the book entitled The Faith Explained it states, “Because it was by her own free consent that Mary chose to be the mother of the redeemer and because it was freely (and so intimately!) that she shared in His passion, Mary is acclaimed by the Church as the Co-Redemptress of the human race. And it is no wonder that God preserved her body, from whom His own body was taken, from the corruption of the grave.”

An excerpt from a sermon from St. John Damascene reads, “Your sacred and happy soul, as nature will have it, was separated in death from your most blessed and immaculate body; and although the body was duly interred [to deposit (a dead body) in the earth or in a tomb] , it did not remain in the state of death, neither was it dissolved by decay…Your most pure and sinless body was not left on earth but you were transferred to your heavenly throne, O lady, Queen, and Mother of God in truth.”

In a Book entitled The Catechism of the Catholic Church it describes the Assumption of Mary as follows: “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 Queen over all things, so that she might be more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.”

Monsignor James Moroney, former Director, USCCB Department of Liturgy states “This feast commemorates two events – the ‘falling asleep’ (or ‘Dormitio’) of the Blessed Virgin at the end of her life, and her being taken up to heaven. The Assumption, in which Mary’s body left the earth and entered eternity with God, gives hope to Christians of overcoming death in eternity through union with God. The Feast of the Assumption is an honoring and an exultation of Mary, the most blessed of women and the Mother of the Son of God.”

As we meditate on what this day means to us, let us discuss a few points. You will find that in much of the literature describing the assumption it will mention the assumption of both the body and soul. Why is this important? As Catholics we believe that when we are resurrected it will be both physical and spiritual, both body and soul. In the assumption of Mary, God’s promise of our resurrection when Jesus comes again came to fruition. However, Mary was granted this gift early. Mary, having been the mother of Christ, the vessel of Grace, the Arch of the Covenant, she assisted with the Incarnation of God. In Mary giving birth to Jesus, God was able to become flesh. Mary became the Theotokos or “God Bearer”. Being the mother of the King, she is given the title of the Queen. In many art renderings depicting the assumption, Mary is depicted as being received by the angels waiting to crown her queen.

As Catholics we are often criticized for treating Mary with such reverence. What they do not understand is that the reverence that we show for Mary is because she is the reflection of our Lord and we are not worshiping her directly, but worshiping Christ. Fr. Barron explains this concept by using the sun and the moon. Mary is like the moon that has light from the sun reflected upon it. It is easier to see the moon than the sun because the sun is too bright and brilliant. Mary, who brought us Jesus, was meant to show us Christ. This is why in many of the pictures and sculptures Mary is depicted standing on a moon or in some sculptures, if she is holding the infant Christ, Jesus is positioned covering Mary’s face.
A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun [Christ], with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. (Revelations)

Therefore, all of the reverence we show Mary is because she is a true reflection of Christ and in seeing her, we are beholding our Lord.

Therefore, in 1950 Pope Pius XII declared
“We have poured forth prayers of supplication again and again to God, and have called upon the Spirit of Truth. Now, for the glory of the Almighty God, who has lavished his special affection upon the Virgin Mary; for the honor of her Son, the undying King of the Ages and Victor over sin and death; for the increase of the glory of that revered mother; and for the joy and exultation of the entire church: By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her heavenly earthly life, was taken body and soul into heavenly glory.”

In a reflection on the dormition of the Mother of God, Pope John Paul II said, “The experience of death personally enriched the Blessed Virgin: by undergoing mankind’s common destiny, she can more effectively exercise her spiritual motherhood towards those approaching the last moment of their life”.

So as we celebrate the Assumption of Mary, let us celebrate our Blessed Mother and remember that she is the model of the Church and has set for us the goal for which we must strive to achieve.

Rosary Prayer on the Assumption of Mary

Prayer Intentions
• That those who have gone before us in faith might rest in the Lord
• For babies who have died through abortion

Our Father…
O Holy Mary, hear the cries of the mother whose child has been aborted
Hail Mary, full of grace…
O Holy Mary, with a mother’s care strengthen those who have grown weak with age
Hail Mary, full of grace…
O Holy Mary, cradle the children who have died through our neglect
Hail Mary, full of grace…
O Holy Mary, intercede for those abused or forgotten
Hail Mary, full of grace…
O Holy Mary, remember those imprisoned by selfishness or sin
Hail Mary, full of grace…
O Holy Mary, look with love on those who long for heaven
Hail Mary, full of grace…
O Holy Mary, hear the prayers of doctors who seek to heal
Hail Mary, full of grace…
O Holy Mary, stand by those who work to save the weakest and littlest among us
Hail Mary, full of grace…
O Holy, Mary, intercede for all who love life and work to protect it
Hail Mary, full of grace…
O Holy Mary, Teach us by your life to embrace Christ your son
Hail Mary, full of grace…
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

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