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The Feast of the Assumption Is Our Feast Too

August 14, 2010

This year we are privileged to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary into heaven on a Sunday. Let’s ponder this feast in three stages:

1. Explained – To be “assumed” means to be taken up by God bodily into heaven. As far back as the Church can remember we have celebrated the fact that Mary was taken up into heaven. We do not just acknowledge that her soul was taken to heaven,  as is the case with all the rest of the faithful who are taken there (likely after purgation). Rather Mary was taken up, soul AND body into heaven after her sojourn on this earth was complete. There is no earthly tomb containing her body, neither are there relics of her body to be found among the Christian faithful. This is our ancient memory and what we celebrate today, Mary was taken up, body and soul into heaven.

2. Exemplified – The actual event of the Assumption is not described in Scripture. However, there are assumptions recorded in the Scriptures and the concept is thus biblical.

  1. It happened to Enoch in the Old Testament The Book of Genesis records: Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away (Gen. 5:24). Hebrews 11: 5 elaborates: By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God.
  2.  It also happened to Elijah as he walked with Elisha: And as they still went on and talked, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven….And he was seen no more. (2 Kings 2:11 ).
  3. Some say Moses too was taken up since his grave is not known: He was buried  in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is (Dt. 34:6). The text of course does not say his body was taken up and if it was, it occurred after death and burial. Jude 1:9 hints at the fact when is says, But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses….. (Jude 1:9) Some further credibility is lent to the view of him being   assumed  by the fact that he appears alongside Elijah in the Transfiguration account. Some of the Church Fathers held this view and there is also a Jewish work from the 6th Century AD entitled The Assumption of Moses that represents the tradition of his assumption. But in the end the Assumption of Moses only a view held by some and it not officially held by the Church.
  4. And While it is true that the historical event of the assumption  is not recorded in Scripture nor are there historical accounts of the event, there may be one other scriptural account that evidences Mary’s whereabouts, body and soul.  The Church presents for our consideration in today’s second reading a passage from the Book of Revelation wherein John records his sighting of the Ark of God:

Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm. A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads… The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. (Rev 11:19 – 12:5)

The Woman is clearly Mary since the child is clearly Jesus. And where is Mary seen? In heaven. Now some may argue the text does not necessarily indicate her body is in heaven but may only be referring to her soul. However the physicality of the description of her is rather strong.  Some also argue that Mary is linked to John’s sighting of the Ark of the Convent which is seen by John in Heaven. He mentions the Ark and goes on to describe the woman clothed with the sun (Mary) and there is a possibility that he is still describing the Ark he sees in Heaven. (I have written on this elsewhere. See here: Mary: The Ark of the New Covenant)  If she is the Ark described  that Ark is clearly described as being in heaven.

So, the Biblical record, while not recording the event of the Assumption, does set forth other assumptions and thus shows that assumption is a biblical concept. Further, Mary’s physical presence in heaven seems hinted at by John and some would argue that the passage actually attests to her physical presence there.

But remember, the Church does not rely solely on Scripture. In this case what we celebrate is most fundamentally taught to us by Sacred Tradition in that the memory of Mary’s assumption goes back as long as we can remember.

3. Extended –  The Feast of the Assumption may be of theological interest to some and may provide for interesting biblical reflection but eventually the question is bound to come: “So What?” How does what happened to Mary have impact on my life and what does it mean for me? The answer to this question is bound up in nearly every Marian Doctrine. Simply put, what happened to Mary in an profound and preliminary way will also happen for us in the end. As Mary bore Christ into he world, we too bear him there in the Holy Communion we receive and in the witness of his indwelling presence in our life. As Mary is (and always was) sinless, so too will we one day be sinless (immaculate) with God in heaven. As Mary cared for Christ in his need, so do we care for him in the poor, the suffering, needy and afflicted. And as Mary was assumed, body and soul into heaven so too will we be there one day, body and soul.

For now our souls go to heaven once purified but our body lie in a tomb. But one day when the trumpet shall sound, on that “great gettin’ up morning” our bodies will rise and be joined to our soul:

For we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”…….Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15:51-57)

So our bodies shall rise shall be assumed and joined to our soul.

Improved model!  Now a older woman once said to me upon hearing  that her body would rise: “Father if this old body has to rise, I’m hoping for an improved model!”  Yes indeed! Me too! I want my hair back, my slender figure and knees that work! I  want to upgrade from a general issue late model version,  to a luxury model. And God will in fact do that.  Scripture says:

  1. He will take these lowly bodies of ours and transform them to be like his own glorified body. (Phil 3:21)
  2. But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body…..So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; …..And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. (1 Cor 15:35-49)
  3. Yes we shall also be taken up, assumed, and then shall be fulfilled for us the saying of Job: I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another ‘s (Job 19:25-27).

The assumption of our bodies, prefigured by Christ in his own power and also in Mary by the gift of God, will one day be our gift too. For now, it waits till that “great gettin’ up morning.” Until that day, and on that day,  fare you well, fare you well!

This song is an African American Spiritual and speaks of that Great Gettin’ up morning when our bodies will rise. And if we have been faithful they will rise to glory!

I’m gonna tell you about the coming of the judgement (Fare you well) There’s a better day a coming….In that great gettin’ up morning fare you well! Oh preacher fold your Bible, For the last soul’s converted….Blow your trumpet Gabriel…..Lord, how loud shall I blow it? Blow it right calm and easy Do not alarm all my people….Tell them to come to the judgement…….In that great gettin’ up morning fare you well. Do you see them coffins bursting? Do you see them folks is rising? Do you see the world on fire? Do you see the stars a falling? Do you see that smoke and lightning? Do you hear the rumbling thunder? Oh Fare you well poor sinner. In that great gettin’ up morning fare you well.

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Comments (14)

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  1. Kaisar says:

    I have a couple of questions regarding our Holy Mother Mary.
    If she was free of sin, natural and original, then how can she experience sorrow, since sorrow (along with all other negative feelings are a direct result of sin)?
    Also, did her body deteriorate physically, or get wrinkled as she aged? This would be unlikely since this too is a result of sin?

    In Christ,

    K.

    • CornerStone says:

      Kaisar – I feel you are mixing up suffering and sorrow – these are two distinct concepts in Catholic faith. Though sinless – and God Himself, Jesus experienced suffering. Suffering recieved from the hands of God is redemptive and leads to true liberation of the Ressuruction. One cannot imitate Christ without embracing Him, nailed to the corss. Like the Holy Father once said: Joy for a Christian, is not the abscence of suffering – this joy can perfectly co-exist with suffering.

      • Kaisar says:

        Cornerstone-you may be right about the difference between suffering and sorrow. But in any case, Mary did experience both emotions (Luke 2:35). She felt sorrow while suffering simultaneously. My inquiry is how can a perfect human being who is free of sin experience and undergo such emotions. The question applies to our Lord as well to a smaller extent. But in Lord Jesus’ case, I can sort of see how being God, He could impose upon himself to experience such negative emotions and carry the sin of the entire world upon His shoulders. Mary on the other hand does not have the capability of endowing herself the gift of experiencing pain while being free of sin.

        Just a thought really, not a crisis of conscience or anything.

        K.

  2. Lizzy S Falnikar says:

    Dear Father,
    The beauty of the Catholic faith is that it is both Trinitarian and Marian. For me, the basic truth is that if we cannot respect the mother, we can never respect the son. In most of the revelations given to the saints, Our Lord explicitly talks of His great love for his beloved Mother and also exhorts the faithful to love her and pray much to her as she is also the Mediatrix. In the book ‘Revelations to St.Bridget’, Our Lord reveals his sorrow about countless millions of his flock who do not love his mother. I find it most comforting in times of distress to turn towards her and keep repeating my woes again and again without the slightest hesitation because of the conviction that she is a dear Mom and she will keep on listening and listening with the greatest patience and in turn keep reminding her Blessed Son of the needs of her little ones on earth. Are we not then blessed to have such a wonderful mother who was lifted body and soul into heaven? We Catholics are blessed because the church has inculcated Marian devotion as part of our faith formation. Thank you Mama Mary for being with us on our journey towards Jesus!

  3. Buutonga Nakuau says:

    It is a very clear and logic homily. It helps me in to see clearly how this mysterious doctrine can be explained and at the same time it helps me very much to understand more on the assumption of Mary. Above all, this homily gives me strength and strong faith in the assumption of my Mother Mary. Thanks alot Msgr Charles and may God be always with you.

    B.Nakuau

  4. Justin says:

    @ Kaisar

    I’m not sure that sorrow is a DIRECT result of sin – it is more an INDIRECT result. After all, our Lord, who was without sin, was a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief (Isa 53:3) because he bore our sins. And our Mother, so intimately united with her Son, was also united to Him in His sorrow and suffering.

    • Kaisar says:

      Justin,
      Sorrow would be a direct result of sin if sin resides in us (whether Original or natural); it would be an indirect result if sin resides in our environment, in an exterior space outside of our being. How is it possible to feel sorrow when you are a perfect being. I’ll write the same thing as I did for Cornerstone up there. I can see how Jesus could experience such emotions since being the second Person of Trinity, He could impose upon Himself such negative emotions. Mary on the other hand, does not have such capabilities of imposing upon herself a feeling such as sorrow (or pain in general) that is unknown to her.

      K.

  5. ContraSign says:

    A meditation on Assumption with Corregio’s spectacular fresco:
    http://matrisecclesia.blogspot.com/

  6. Robertlifelongcatholic says:

    The description in Revelarions seems a cosmological description of what was to take place on a physcial level on earth almost as the descriptions of the fallen angels and Satan from heaven. In oriental verses occidental perspectives of existence, God’s Will goes forth and creates His manifest creation from various described sequences or transcendent levels of existence. I’m not proposing this as the way it is by any means but I would dare to share this perspective. God’s eternal plan as carried forth on His stage of the physcial world is bound by the fulfillment of an intuitive plan and purpose, revealed in stages over millenia through many chosen and faithful followers such as prophets, chosen people which prepared mankind for messianic salvation and the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. It would not seem against Catholic docterine that when one speaks of the body, that it is a glorified body without the physical attributes of sentient weakness and physical limitations. Subjective/ objective consciousness would appear to exist from both our physcial limited body, and an emotional subconscious body which we observe from and engage in a separate, interactive life while asleep and unconscious of our physical surroundings. Beyond that is a body of ego personality traits that the orient perspective considers of mind and fairly free of emotion’s influence.and yet these bodies are more points of personal observation rather than what we are accusomed to perceiving as us physically, the ones our friends and love ones are emotionally and sentiently attracted and attached to. Yet these are are delusional perspectives without the clear belief, understanding, and affirmation that we, or what parts of God’s great plan of existence and expression of Being we really are. As followers and members of His Church as established and instructed by Him as Christ on earth, He carries forth the salvation of mankind through the passion of Jesus’s life, the fulfillment of the prophets, and the establishment of the Cathilic Church which acts through His Holy Spirit. The next higher body of existence from the personal ego mind is the body of universal mind which is the area from which is still separated from heaven yet is a spiritual level free of egocentric tendencies. Sounds far fetched and new age but is actually older than Methuselah. Beyond that body or should I say, all these various transcendent bodies are within and part and parcel of God and the next level of perception would be as members of God’s body the Church in Heaven. Crhist is the flashlight out of this dark atmosphere.Those few and blessed ones sent and who kept His laws, teacings and Will were assumed to Heaven in body as they were on earth because they have faithfully and dutifully fulfilled the Will of the Father. As followers of Christ and faithful we average novices, at physicl death exist in spirit and some level of transcendence until we have been purged of sinful dross and are glorified in the Body of Christ’s Church. I could be wrong. It’s just an assumption. “DISCLAIMER” -This perspective is in no way the expressed teachings or sanctioned by the Catholic docterine.

  7. Robertlifelongcatholic says:

    Second point. I firmly believe in the Mariology and New Arch of the Covenant representation. Good articles.

  8. Justin says:

    @ Kaiser

    How do you know that our Lord’s sorrow was experienced because He imposed it upon Himself? That is something that you are assuming. You are also assuming that sorrow is in and of itself a bad thing. The dangerous thing about assumptions is that we take them for granted and use them to substantiate what we already believe or want to believe. It looks to me like you’ve already made up your mind to believe that Mary was not Immaculately conceived against the most reliable teaching of Tradition, the Scriptures, and the Magisterium. And naturally, you are entitled to your beliefs…whatever they may be…

    • Kaisar says:

      Justin,
      I would hate for this conversation to head to this direction, me having to prove my Catholicity and you taking the role of an inquisitor. But that’s okay, in all love, I’ll respond to this. I am CATHOLIC, and I fully believe in our Holy Mother’s Immaculate Conception. Who am I to argue with Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium. My thoughts that Iam taking the liberty of expressing in this forum do not constitute dogma, doctrine or even a statement of faith or creed. They’re simply thoughts, nothing else.

      I say our Lord imposed upon Himself to experience such emotion as sorrow, grief, suffering, or pain simply because He is omnipotent and he can do whatever he wants. Whereas Mary, being free of sin, in the same manner Adam and Eve were prior to their fall, then it would be difficult to understand how she could experience these negative emotions.

      Sorrow is and joy are two polar opposites. It’s possible for a faithful person to experience in his/her life and yet remain joyful because of God’s presence, as was the case with Daniel, the three companions, Habakkuk (3:17-19) the list goes on and on. But this does not mean that undergoing sorrow is in and of itself is a joyous experience or even a good thing. The joy itself is due to God’s presence and the presence of the particular sorrow we undergo.

      In Christ,

      K.

  9. Kaisar says:

    Correction
    The joy itself is due to God’s presence and the presence of the particular sorrow we undergo.
    ***The joy itself is due to God’s presence and NOT the presence of the particular sorrow we undergo.***

  10. ArturMiyami says:

    Дисней и Пиксар отдыхают!
    Скоро ожидается пресс-конференция компании Д3 Медиа групп, где нам покажут
    до чего доросла российская анимация и что мы все-таки что-то можем.
    В планах, насколько я знаю, показать целых 2 анимационных полных метра. Один из них
    сделан по «Мастеру и Маргарите» Булгакова. Думаю, интересно взглянуть какого
    плана получатся фильмы, по Мастеру и Маргарите, на мой взгляд, пока не было
    хорошей визуализации.