August 15: The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

First Century
Solemnity; Liturgical Color: White
Patron Saint of France and Lebanon


<<<      God wants Mary for Himself      >>>

Today’s Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary body and soul into heaven commemorates, liturgically, a dogma. Catholicism celebrates her dogmas like a country celebrates its independence day or its military victories. The Church processes up and down city streets for the Body and Blood of Christ; she builds crèches and composes Christmas carols for the dogma of the Incarnation at Christmas; she names cities, such as Asunción, the capital of Paraguay, after dogmas such as today’s Feast. We strew flowers, sing songs, walk on pilgrimage, construct shrines, and kneel in prayer for our dearest truths. Tradition in the Church is not a locked chest. It is a vital force, like a rushing wind, that purifies and is purified, that is ever ancient and ever young, and that informs all that the Church teaches and does. The sacramental family of the Church celebrates her most deeply held, specifically defined beliefs, or dogmas, in beautiful ways.

The Assumption of Mary into heaven is a logical consequence of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Because Mary was born without original sin, she did not suffer its consequences, among which is death. Because she was a kind of Ark of the New Covenant, carrying the Church in the person of Christ, God preserved her from sin and wanted her in His presence when her time on earth ceased. No saint has ever enjoyed such a privilege, because no saint ever had the relationship with Christ that Mary enjoyed. A pious tradition says that the choirs of angels in heaven whispered in awe to each other as Mary was assumed into God’s presence, “Who is this woman treated with such unique respect and honor?”

Sometimes it’s hard to appreciate the beauty and majesty of a massive landscape without a person to give it scale. How high is that waterfall? How tall that mountain peak? How far that shore? Place a person in the field of vision and suddenly the image makes more sense. God fills every scene with his majesty. He is almost too much to take in. But Mary gives God scale and perspective. She humanizes the view. Mary is always there in the foreground, showing the faithful how to approach God and render Him due honor.

Devotion to the Virgin Mary is not just a more intense version of devotion to a saint. It is so much more than that. True devotion to Mary is on a higher plane of spirituality, something “cradle Catholics” know instinctively, even if they cannot explain it. With Mary as our mother, the Church and her doctrines are vivified. They seem to matter more. The Church is closer to us and we to her because of Mary. Marian spirituality is more than religious wisdom in the Eastern tradition. It is more than acknowledging that Jesus Christ came from a particular woman and a particular town. To be “Marian” is to know why God would want her assumed into heaven, body intact. To be “Marian” is to understand that no one asks about a baby without asking about its mother in the very same breath. Mary was not just the first Christian. She was, for years, the only Christian. She was, for years, the entire Church.

The dogma of the Assumption, like all dogmas, is liberating. Borders make one go deeper, just like irrigation channels guide the water where it’s needed so that a harvest will come. “No” can lead to new discoveries as much as “Yes.” Good theology sometimes says “No” to bad theology. This usually leads to a deeper spirituality. We need sound mysteries of faith to contemplate, to consider, and to commemorate. Without them, we would be focused either on falsehoods or on ourselves, and we might then become the mystery of faith rather than the truth or God. Profound dogmas of faith such as the Assumption of Mary walk hand in hand with a vibrant spiritually. Mary’s Assumption into heaven opens new horizons to the mind and imagination in prayer and a holy desire to discover more in the life to come.

Saint Mary, assumed into heaven, may your life with God, body and soul, be our goal. May we see your quiet devotion to God and the Church as an example to be followed, a target to be aimed at, and a destiny that awaits the serious Christian who emulates your subtle virtues. Amen.

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