The Assumption of Mary

 

My lover speaks; he says to me, Arise, my beloved,
my beautiful one, and come! For see, the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
Songs 2, 10-11 

Arise, Lord, come to your resting place,
you and your majestic ark.
Psalm 132, 8 

You stretch out your hand and save me, 
your hand will do all things for me.
Your love, O Lord, is eternal.
Discard not the work of your hands.
Psalm 138, 7-8 

“Behold, from henceforth, all generations shall call me blessed;
for the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.”
Luke 1, 48-49

The Assumption of the Virgin Mary is originally the Catholic and Apostolic teaching that 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. This singular privilege is bound to Mary's divine maternity and consequently her immaculate conception or freedom from all stain of sin. Since Mary completely overcame sin, she wasn't subject to the law of sin. She was spared the corruption of bodily death and didn't have to wait for the redemption of her body until the end of time unlike fallen humanity conceived and born in the state of original sin.

Catholics believe that Mary was exempted from the corruption of the grave because of her intimate association with Jesus in the redemption of humanity. Eve’s disobedience ultimately resulted in the fall of “mankind” (Adam/אָדָם). Because of the fall, all human beings are conceived and born deprived of the original justice and sanctity which Adam forfeited for his descendants by his sin. ‘The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”'(Gen 3:12-13). Mary, on the other hand, observed God’s will, and so, she brought forth the living Font of all grace who would reconcile mankind to God. Mary said: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).

By her act of faith working through love, Mary untied the tight knot of Eve’s grave transgression. And since she always heard the word of God and kept it (Lk 11:28), this penalty of original sin, which Eve had helped bring about, didn't apply to her. Mary is the New Eve and "helpmate" of the New Adam, and so she shares a similar fate with her Son, that is the return to paradise, unlike Eve's expulsion from Eden together with Adam because of his sin. By the power of his own resurrection from the dead, Jesus assumed his most blessed Mother body and soul into heaven to join him in his glorified state.


Since apostolic time, the faithful have acknowledged Mary's exceptional holiness and separation from all that is profane and sinful, for it was she who was chosen to conceive the Divine Word made flesh in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:35; Jn 1:14). Her body could be compared not only to the incorruptible acacia wood that framed the Ark, but also to the holy Temple where the Ark was eventually kept, and her womb to the sacred sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, where the Ark was particularly concealed within the holy place. The stainless gold of the Ark has drawn their attention to the purity of Mary's body and soul.

As the mother of our Lord, Mary held not only the Divine Word, but also in his person the High Priest in the order of Melchizedek (Heb 5:8-10), and the “true manna come down from heaven” – the “Bread of Life” (Jn 6:35, 51). Mary held within her the anti-types of the sacred religious relics that were placed in the Ark: the two stone tablets of the Divine commandments, the priestly rod of Aaron, and manna that had fallen from heaven. Since these objects find their ultimate fulfillment in the holy person of the Divine Son so, too, the Ark that held them must culminate in the holy person of the Blessed Virgin Mary who conceived and bore him in her sacred womb which was his personal dwelling place.

The Ark of the Covenant was specifically created by God to carry His overshadowing presence in this world. Similarly, God created Mary to carry the Divine Word in the flesh through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. For the same reason, both the Ark of the Old Covenant and Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, were made intrinsically holy by Divine mediation. As the Ark was made of pure gold within and without and of incorruptible acacia wood (which cannot be consumed by worms and insects) because it was designed to serve as God’s personal dwelling place on earth, so, too, God sanctified Mary’s soul when he fashioned it upon her conception and preserved her flesh free from all stain of original sin and ensuing bodily corruption.


Further, in her Canticle of Praise or Magnificat, Mary speaks prophetically when she proclaims: “Behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed” (Lk 1:48). The original Greek word Luke uses for being pronounced blessed (makarizó / μακαρίζω) in the given context can be interpreted as meaning “to be pronounced blessed because of enjoying privileges that extend from God’s favor,” that being the Divine Maternity. Mary is blessed not only for having consented in faith to be the mother of the Lord. What is more important from an eschatological point of view is the final consummation of her act of faith informed by charity and grace. When Jesus prophetically says, “Blessed (makaria) are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” the highest expression of their being blessed is seeing God which results from their being pure in heart (Mt 5:8). Therefore, the gift of the Virgin Mary’s divine motherhood isn’t the highest expression of her being blessed or “happy” in the eyes of future generations of believers.

The secondary fulfillment of Mary’s prophecy is eschatologically found in her Assumption. The highest expression of her being blessed is the glorious redemption of her body united with her immaculate soul in the Beatific Vision of God. All future generations shall pronounce Mary blessed for having received this pre-eminent favor that no other human being shall ever receive by God’s gratuitous grace, not only because she is the Mother of God, but also because of the other extended privilege or “great thing” God favored her with because of her Divine Motherhood – her Immaculate Conception and freedom from all stain of sin (Lk 1:49).


Finally, faithful Catholics believe Jesus would be dishonoring his mother by refusing to bestow upon her the highest degree of glory he possibly could in his power if, in fact, he has left his mother’s body, his own sacred flesh, and blood, to decay in the tomb. Yet, we the faithful, who personally know the true Jesus, believe that he could never do such a thing such as dishonor his own mother, not if he is indeed the Word of God in the flesh of her holy flesh. We read in Matthew 15, 4: “For God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.” The Hebrew word for “honor” in this verse is 'kavodah' which means in the original context “to bestow glory” on our natural parents. It originates from the word 'kavod,' meaning “weight” or “glory.” The truth is that the Son honored and glorified the Father and was true to Himself as the Word of God by bestowing unprecedented glory upon the woman whom He chose to be His mother by assuming her body and soul into Heaven, as to be not only spiritually but also physically present with her in their filial bond of love for each other.

Early Sacred Tradition

“At that time, the Savior coming from the Virgin, the Ark, brought forth His own
Body into the world from that Ark, which was gilded with pure gold within by the
Word, and without by the Holy Ghost; so that the truth was shown forth, and the
Ark was manifested…. And the Savior came into the world bearing the
incorruptible Ark, that is to say His own body.”
St. Hippolytus, In Daniel Vl
(c. A.D.205)

“The prophet David danced before the Ark.  Now what else should we say the
Ark was but holy Mary?  The Ark bore within it the tables of the Testament, but
Mary bore the Heir of the same Testament itself. The former contained in it the
Law, the latter the Gospel.  The one had the voice of God, the other His Word.
The Ark, indeed, was radiant within and without with the glitter of gold, but holy
Mary shone within and without with the splendor of virginity.  The one was
adorned with earthly gold, the other with heavenly.”
St. Ambrose, Serm. xlii. 6, Int. Opp., S. Ambrosiiz
(ante. A.D. 397)

“If the Holy Virgin had died and was buried, her falling asleep would have been
surrounded with honour, death would have found her pure, and her crown would
have been a virginal one…Had she been martyred according to what is written:
‘Thine own soul a sword shall pierce’, then she would shine gloriously among the
martyrs, and her holy body would have been declared blessed; for by her, did light
come to the world.”
St. Epiphanius, Panarion, 78:23
 (A.D. 377)

“But Mary, the glorious Mother of Christ, who is believed
to be a virgin both before and after she bore him, has,
as we said above, been translated into paradise, amid the singing
of the angelic choirs, whither the Lord preceded her.”
St. Gregory of Tours
Eight Books of Miracles, 1:8
(A.D. 584)

“It was fitting ... that the most holy-body of Mary, God-bearing body, receptacle
of God, divinized, incorruptible, illuminated by divine grace and full glory ... should
be entrusted to the earth for a little while and raised up to heaven in glory, with her
soul pleasing to God.”
St. Theoteknos of Livias, Homily on the Assumption
[ca. A.D. 600]

“You are she who, as it is written, appears in beauty,
and your virginal body is all holy, all chaste, entirely the dwelling place 
of God, so that it is henceforth completely exempt from dissolution into dust. 
Though still human, it is changed into the heavenly life of incorruptibility, 
truly living and glorious, undamaged and sharing in perfect life.”
St. Germanus of Constantinople, Sermon I
[A.D. 683]

“It was fitting that the she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped when giving birth to him, should look upon him as he sits with the Father, It was fitting that God's Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God.”
St. John Damascene
Dormition of Mary
[A.D. 697]

Ave Maria!


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