Luke 1: 39 – 56
The Solemnity of the Assumption is a celebration of Mary was assumed body and soul to heaven. This was a belief going back to the early church but was not declared an infallible doctrine until 1950 by Pope Pius XII. The key sentence from the decree is, “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” [Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus 44] In the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, Lumen Gentium, of the Second Vatican Council states, “the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, when her earthly life was over, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things (n. 59).”
It is only the second infallible statement made by a pope. The first also dealt with a Marian Doctrine, the Immaculate Conception, and was issued by Pope Pius IX in 1854. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary was conceived without sin, and was without sin throughout her life. The document of the Assumption points out that since Mary was without sin from conception to her death she was spared the consequence of sin, death. Therefore her body did not face the corruption that comes with death but rather she was assumed body and soul directly to heaven.
The Gospel for this Solemnity is the account of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth.
The exchange between the two illustrates the blessed presence of Mary and had it was experienced by her saintly cousin. Part of the Elizabeth’s greeting has been immortalized in the Hail Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” And she goes onto refer to Mary as the mother of her Lord. She then describes the interaction between the babies in each of their wombs. The child in her womb, who would be known as John the Baptist, leaped for joy at the presence of Jesus in the womb of Mary.
Mary’s response becomes the prayer we now know as the Magnificat, in which she proclaims the greatness of the Lord and all that he has done for her. The prayer then goes on to recount the numerous ways that the Lord will turn the world around and upside down.
There are several important lessons for us;
First, God’s desire is that we ultimately make it to heaven and Mary’s Assumption is a sign to us of what will hopefully awaits us at the Second coming. Unlike Mary we were not conceived without sin, and we do not live our lives without sin. We are sinners. Thus we have the constant need to repent, to change our lives and to be faithful to the Lord. It is in this way that we can live in the hope of eternal life in heaven.
Second, Like Elizabeth we should strive for holiness. A holiness that allows us to be sensitive to God’s presence in our midst, and an awareness of God that moves us to prayer. When we approach the altar for Holy Communion are we touched with God’s presence to the point that our hearts leap for joy?
Third, Like Mary may our souls magnify the greatness of the Lord. May we be always mindful of the great things God has done to us. How he has rescued us in the past and continues to be with us. Sometimes he turns our worlds upside down in such a way that the impossible happens.
May we pray with deep devotion, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. . .”
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.