Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6, 10, First Corinthians 15:20-26, Luke 1:39-56
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a solemnity that portrays the dignity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a consequence of who she is as the mother of God and the type of life she lived.
It is highly unthinkable that the womb that bears God would experience decay, So the solemnity shows how God desires holiness and admires His holy ones. In Psalm 16:3, He says that “the holy ones in the land are my true heroes, I take pleasure in them”.
Today’s feast is a glorification of the Blessed Mother whom God grants a special grace to be free from sin, and she preserves this grace until her death. She lived a holy life.
Therefore, the Solemnity also reveals how God admires holiness of life. In Psalm 16:10, God promises that He will never allow His beloved ones to undergo decay. He grants to our Blessed Mother Mary this special favour for the unique role she played in our salvific history.
Hence, the body that carries God in her womb has nothing to do with the devil. Hence, God preserves this body from anything that has to do with the decay. He accords her this special privilege.
Therefore, this body that lived in a life of purity has nothing to do with decay. Because of the role she plays in the history of salvation, God does not wish her beloved daughter to undergo decay. He allows her to undergo a restful sleep and then He takes her body and soul into heaven. In essence, this is what we are celebrating today.
Etymology And Meaning.
Etymologically, Assumption comes from the Latin Word, Assumptio meaning “to take up”, or “taking up”. Therefore in simple terms, Our Lord, Jesus Christ takes His Mother Mary home to Himself where He dwells. Therefore, Assumption is the taking up of the Blessed Mother Mary into heaven, body and soul.
Pope Pius XII, on November 1, 1950, in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, proclaimed the Assumption of Mary a dogma of the Catholic Church. He says “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heaven”.
Today’s feast is simply a consequence of the Immaculate Conception and the Divine Motherhood of Mary. For it was not fitting that the flesh that had given life to God himself should ever undergo corruption. Being with Jesus on earth, it is also fitting for Mary to be with her Son in heaven. So the Assumption is God completing His work on Mary.
A Historical Background.
Today’s solemnity traces its roots back to the earliest years of the Church, dating back to the apostles themselves. During the early years of Christianity, there is a belief of the assumption of the Blessed Mother Mary.
So many stories have revolved around today’s feast. The truth that remains is that we cannot find the body of Mary anywhere. Among the stories that surround the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary are :
1.There is a story that when the news of the death of the mother of Jesus was heard, some of the apostles came to the place she lived to have her buried. To their greatest surprise, there was no sign of the body. Only the linens were seen which were specially placed.
2.Another tradition holds that a tomb of Mary exists outside Jerusalem. The earliest Christians maintain that a few moments after she was laid inside the tomb, they discover that “no one was there,”. The disappearance of the body of Mary became a mystery till today.
Because of this, only a feast is known as the “Memory of Mary” was celebrated and marked only in Palestine, and later extended to all the churches of the East. In the seventh century, it began to be celebrated in Rome under the title of the “Falling Asleep” (“Dormition”) of the Mother of God. Because they hold that She did not truly die, She fell asleep and her body was taken up. Soon the name was changed to the “Assumption of Mary,”.
3.Another one is the narration according to San Juan Damasceno, Doctor of the Church. He says
“The Mother of God did not die of illness, because she did not have to receive the punishment of illness because she had no original sin. She did not die of old age, because she did not have to grow old, since the punishment for the sin of the first parents did not come to her: growing old and ending up due to weakness. She died of love. The desire to go to heaven where her Son was was so great that this love made her die.
Some fourteen years after the death of Jesus, when she had already spent all her time, she let the Apostles know that now the date of leaving this world for eternity was approaching.
The Apostles loved her as the kindest of all mothers, and they hastened to travel to receive from her maternal lips her last counsel, and her sacrosanct hands her last blessing.
They arrived, and with copious tears, and on their knees, they kissed those holy hands that had so many times blessed them. For each one of them, the exalted Lady had words of comfort and hope. And then, like someone who falls asleep in the most placid of dreams, it was She, the Holy, closing her eyes; and her soul a thousand times blessed, departed for eternity.
The news spread throughout the city, and there was not a Christian who did not come to mourn with his body, as for the death of his mother. His burial looked more like an Easter procession than a funeral. Everyone sang the Hallelujah with the strongest hope that they now had a most powerful Protector in heaven, to intercede for each one of Jesus’ disciples.
Very soft but strong aromas were felt in the air, and each one seemed to hear very soft harmonies of music. But, Thomas the Apostle, had not been able to arrive on time. When he arrived they had already returned from burying the Blessed Mother.
Pedro, – said Tomás- You cannot deny me the great favour of being able to go to the tomb of my most loving mother and give one last kiss to those holy hands that blessed me so many times. And Pedro accepted.
They all went to the Holy Sepulcher, and when they were close, they began to feel again very soft aromas in the environment and harmonious music in the air.
They opened the tomb and instead of seeing the body of the Virgin they only found… a great quantity of very beautiful flowers. Jesus Christ had come, He had raised His Blessed Mother and taken her to heaven.
4. At the Council of Chalcedon in 451. The bishops from Constantinople gather together. Emperor Marcian asks the Patriarch of Jerusalem to bring the relics of Mary to Constantinople so that they can keep it there.
The patriarch explains to the emperor that there were no relics of Mary in Jerusalem. He explains that “Mary had died in the presence of the apostles; but her tomb, when opened later . . . was found empty and so the apostles concluded that the body was taken up into heaven.”
So, in these stories, what was clear from the beginning was that there were no relics of Mary to be venerated and that an empty tomb stood on the edge of Jerusalem near the site of her death. That location also soon became a place of pilgrimage. (Today, the Benedictine Abbey of the Dormition of Mary stands on the spot.)
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is not a new invention. The feast of the Assumption is already a celebration in the early Church. It is noted that this belief start with the apostles who witnessed the end of the Blessed Mother.
In the 8th century, Pope Sergius 1 and Pope Leo IV confirm this feast as an official celebration at that time. During the reformation, People like Martin Luther, Bullinger, Martin Butzer also believed in the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Martin Butzer (1545), a protestant reformer says “there was no reason to doubt about the Assumption of the Virgin into heavenly glory. “Indeed, no Christian doubts that the most worthy Mother of the Lord lives with her beloved Son in heavenly joy.” (Marienlexikon, vol 3, 200)
As time goes, Christians continue to celebrate the Assumption as part of the cult of Mary. This practices was predominant in the middle ages. Then, in 1950 Pope Pius XII after series of discussions and verification, then defines the assumption as a dogma.
In the first reading of today, we see the appearance of the woman clothed with the sun who is to bear a son that will rule the world with an iron sceptre.
John begins the first reading by calling the woman a great sign. A sign is something that points to the reality of something. Hence, the sign that John sees in the sky points to the reality of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s presence in Heaven. Remember that John’s writings are more of signs.
Secondly, John begins the first reading, mentioning the appearance of a woman who is to bear a son that will rule the nations. Let us not forget what God says after the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15.
God cursed the serpent saying “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed and hers. He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.
Therefore, the seed of the woman that will crush the head of the serpent is Jesus Christ and the woman is His mother. So, John uses the word “woman” often to refer to that “woman” prophesied in Genesis 3:15, who is to bear a Son that will crush the head of the serpent.
The gospel of John refers to Mary, the mother of Jesus, as “woman” at the wedding feast at Cana (John 2:1-5), and also at the foot of the Cross (John 19:25-26). Then, He does the same today in Revelation 12:1. By doing this, he is referring to Mother Mary as the Woman who will bear the seed that will crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15).
Thirdly, When the angel appeared to the Blessed Virgin Mary, His greeting was “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; His kingdom will never end.”
Here, the angel Gabriel affirms Mary as the mother of this child who is to rule the nations which are also shown in the first reading with the appearance of the Woman who is to bear a son that will rule the nations.
So, the disappearance of her body on earth and then appearance in heaven as we see today in the first reading is a confirmation that she was assumed into heaven.
Pope Pius X in 1904, Pope Pius XII in 1950, and Pope John Paul II, in his 1995 encyclical The Gospel of Life, stated that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the “woman clothed with the sun” in Revelation 12:1”.
Mary As the Ark of the Covenant: Another Confirmation of the Assumption.
John begins the first reading of today with “That the sanctuary of God in heaven opened, and the ark of the covenant could be seen inside it”.
The ark of the covenant has been hidden for centuries. Within a twinkle of an eye, John says He sees the ark of the covenant. Then another thing that follows is the appearance of a woman clothed with the Sun.
In essence, John was not truly referring to the Ark of the Old testament but talking about Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant. Her presence in heaven was revealed to Him. Let us break this in detail to your understanding.
i. The Ark of the Covenant.
In His great love, God chooses to remain close to His people in a special way. God instructs Moses “to build a tabernacle surrounded by heavy curtains (cf. Ex 25-27). Within the tabernacle, Moses is to place an ark made of acacia wood covered with gold inside and out.
Within the Ark of the Covenant was placed a golden jar holding the manna, Aaron’s rod, and the tablets of stone (cf. Heb 9:4).”
These three signs prefigure the Presence of Jesus Christ, harboured by an ark. Remember that God fed the people with Manna and in John 6.51, Jesus said I am the bread which falls from heaven.
(ii) Aaron’s rod represents His priesthood ((Numbers 17:8)) and Jesus is the High priest of the Most High God. Hebrews 4:14-16 says “Therefore, we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God”.
Secondly, In the culture of the Israelites,” the rod (Hebrew: מַטֶּה maṭṭeh) was a natural symbol of authority, as the tool used by the shepherd to correct and guide his flock (Psalm 23:4)”, and in John 10:11, Jesus says “I am the Good Shepherd”.
(iii) The Stone tablets of the covenant contained the word of God given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Referring to Jesus, John says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1) and the Word was made flesh and then dwells among us (John 1:14).
Therefore, the Ark that harbours the saviour in Her womb is no other person than the Blessed Virgin Mary. “When the ark was brought back in 2 Samuel 6, there was great joy and when David approaches the ark he dances with joy in front of the ark. He is wearing an ephod, the clothing of a priest. What David did has similarities to what we see in today’s gospel.
David dances with great Joy when He encounters the Ark of the Covenant. Also, in today’s gospel when Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, approaches Elizabeth, John the Baptist leaps in his mother’s womb. Also, like David, John was from the priestly line of Aaron”.
In the same 2 Samuel 6, David said “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” (2 Samuel 6:19). Also, in today’s gospel, Elizabeth uses almost the same words: “Why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” This points to deeper mystery and parallel.
Hence, the appearance of the Ark of the Covenant in heaven is a confirmation of the Assumption of Mother Mary, whose body disappears in this world, later John sees her in a vision in heaven.
The Message of the Assumption.
Today we are rejoicing in the glorious exaltation of our beloved Mother. Having been so close to her Son all through His life, and having participated actively in the salvation of humanity, Our Lord Jesus deems it very important to reunite with His mother.
Therefore, Mary’s assumption is like a crowning of the many extraordinary graces she receives from the Blessed Trinity. She is a Highly Favoured one. That favour did not end in the world. Because of her unique role as the mother of our redeemer and the grace of being preserved from sin, God preserves her from decay.
The assumption also is a reward for her purity, faithfulness, humility, and obedience to God. She becomes an avenue through which salvation comes to us.
Today, God decides not to abandon her to the world and accord her a special privilege. If God can give such privilege to Moses, If he can allow Elijah and Enoch to come to him because of their holiness of lives, how much more the body that carried Jesus? How much more the womb that gave the world salvation?
Therefore, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is also a message for all of us. It is a message to obey God at all costs and live a life of holiness. There is nothing we do for God that goes without a reward.
Today, we relegate God. The mention of Holiness seems to be an archaic message. That desire to live a saintly life is gradually dying and going into extinction. What we desire today is to seek only miracles, signs and wonders. When we feel that we have what we want, we go back to square one.
Today, we seem to place our sole interest on the body and forget that our souls also need attention. When we do remember that life is very short and eternal life is real, is always at the point of death.
God loves the holiness of life. In 2 Timothy 1:9, Paul reminds us that our vocation in life is to be holy. Without the holiness of life, we can never see God (Hebrews 12:14).
Therefore, as we take care of our bodies, let us not forget that our souls also need attention. As God rewards our mother Mary with this special privilege, no effort we make to come to Him goes in vain. God rewards every effort. (Ephesians 6:8).
1.The Assumption of the Blessed is a confirmation that the Blessed Virgin Mary was not conquered by death nor corruption.
She is still living to continue Her intercession for those who run to her. Mother Mary is always there for the depressed. She is there to help strenghten our faith in God. Mother Mary is always there for the marginalised, the suffering, the sick, the downtrodden etc.
In her intercessory role, she has continued to appear in different places bringing people back to God. Let us also seek for her maternal intercession that our joy will be complete.
2. As we contemplate the holiness of Our Blessed Mother, let us also acknowledge our sinfulness, weakness and shortcomings. Let us continually seek holiness and the mercy of God.
On the last day, your car will not save you, your lipstick, eyeshadow, expensive earrings, gorgeous clothes, big houses, friends, your party nights etc can never save you. What can only save us is how close we are to God.
The problem is that these are the things that we seek with all our hearts. We can do anything to make money. We go to any extent to live a good life. Yet we can not make a little attempt to live a pure and holy life.
We rest in that popular belief that “God understands”. Hence, we forget that God blesses every effort that we make to remain close to Him. No person wants to think about the end. “How will my end be” should also worry us. Let our relationship with God also give us a huge hunger, in the same way, our Blessed Mother did and God rewards her.
3. The Blessed Mother Mary never disobeyed God. The journey of her assumption today started with her yes to the message of the Angel Gabriel.
She treasures the grace that God gives to her with a sincere and grateful heart. But, we take our own for granted. Sometimes, we barter it with earthly pleasures. We fail to cooperate with God in the work of salvation.
Mother Mary is eager to see that we achieve salvation. It is the reason she is willing to offer everything to God. But on our own, instead of promoting the salvation of souls, we lead souls astray.
Can what we do or how we do bring souls to God or lead them astray? What are you teaching your children at home? What do we do when we see our brothers or sisters going astray? Do we encourage them or do we call them back to God?
4.The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary shows that our Mother Mary preserved her body and soul immaculate. Otherwise, it would be unreasonable to take a sinful body to heaven.
Therefore, She teaches us to obey what Saint Paul says in Romans 12:1, that the proper worship we owe to God is “ to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God”.
But, Instead of doing this, we derive joy in profaning our bodies and souls through the sinful choices and our sinful desires. We derive joy in making God unhappy than making God happy through the type of life we live. Can God also be proud of the life that we are living? What are we using our body to do?
5. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a sign of what God needs from us.Through this solemnity, God is invariably telling us to focus and be attentive to the things that are above. It is through this that we can merit to be sharers of His glory.
Paul says in Colossians 3:2 “Therefore, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things”.
In verses 5 to 9, Paul tells us that to do this we must put to death whatever that belongs to the earthly nature. Things like sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed. We also have to also rid ourselves of things like anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from our lips.
Then from verses 12 to 14 he tells us what to do. He says that as chosen people of God we must be holy. We must clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Also we must bear with each other and forgive one another. We must forgive as the Lord forgives us. Then, we put on the virtues of love.
Therefore, our focus should be on living the way God wants. This is our vocation, this is our call. The Assumption of the Blessed is a foretaste of what God has in store for those that Love Him.
6. Finally, Just as Mary brings joy even to an Unborn Child. The Blessed Virgin Mary can bring joy again in your life. Even in the midst of impossibility, She can.
The power of her presence, penetrates a child in a womb. It shows that her presence is full of the Holy Spirit. Hence, nothing withstands the power of the Holy Spirit.
Her yes to the message of the Angel brings Joy to the world. It is through her yes that our history of salvation began. Her presence at the wedding at Cana in John 2, brings joy to those who are wedding and the wedding guests.
Her presence at that wedding made the impossible happen even when the hour of the Lord had not yet come. The wedding guests lost hope. When the wine finishes, her intercession brings back joy again to the wedding guests. If you need joy in your life, family and everything that you do, make her part of your life.
May God bless you dearest and through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary fill your life with joy. Amen