Mary's Assumption into Heaven

On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII in his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus solemnly defined and declared dogma of the Church the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a belief held by the Church and celebrated liturgically since the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. proclaimed Mary as the Theotokos (the God-bearer) or the “Mother of God”.    St. Gregory of Tours (ca. 545 A.D.) hands down to us the tradition from Apostolic times, “the Apostles took up her body on a bier and placed it in a tomb; and they guarded it, expecting the Lord to come. And behold, again the Lord stood by them; and the holy body having been received, He commanded that it be taken in a cloud into paradise: where now, rejoined to the soul, Mary rejoices with the Lord's chosen ones.”  (Eight Books of Miracles). 

This dogma built on the ancient tradition of the Church, holds that the Mary, the Mother of the Lord was assumed body and soul into heaven.   In the East, the Orthodox Church calls this feast day the “Dormition of Mary” which is similar but holds that Mary “fell asleep” or even experienced death, slightly different from Roman Catholic tradition although not specifically defined, that Mary did not experience death, but when the end of her existence on earth came about, the Lord himself “assumed” her into heaven.   Nevertheless both Churches hold the belief that both her body and soul were given the reward of eternal life and no decay ever touched her body so that Mary did not have to wait for the resurrection of the dead, but immediately joined herself to that of Jesus her Son. 

Why was she so privileged to be exalted in such a manner?  St. Anthony of Padua gives us his answer when he asserts that Mary’s assumption happened for two reasons, the first because of her being chosen as Mother of God and the second because of her humble response to God’s invitation and election.   In Mary’s “yes” to God, we find the example of perfect human obedience to the will of God, which remains in stark contrast to Adam and Eve’s disobedience.   Mary’s obedient response to God cannot be overlooked, but opens the door for God to bring forth the Redeemer from her own flesh.   She is the privileged one whom God chose because of her immaculate state, having been the most beautiful of all God’s creatures, indeed God’s masterpiece.   From her “he assumed our flesh” (St. Anthony) and was united to man.   In essence, Mary is the meeting place between the human and the divine, between God and man, the Temple, the image of the Church.    How could her body, made pure by the Lord’s own body remain apart from the soul conceived without sin?  

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a constant reminder to us as Christians to keep our focus on our eternal destiny, which is not to a place but to a person, to God himself.    Along the journey of faith which has its culmination in our entrance to eternal life, we have our maternal companion and guide.   The Blessed Mother of God who has attained the joys of heaven, now constantly beckons us to follow with joy her Son so that we might enjoy seeing God face to face.   May our prayer reflect the ancient hymn that begs Our Lady’s intercession; “Under thy patronage we seek refuge, Holy Mother of God, despise not our petitions in our needs, but from all dangers deliver us always, O Virgin Glorious and Blessed.”  (Sub tuum praesidum).

-Fr. Vasquez  

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