Skip to comments.The Assumption Of The Blessed Virgin Mary Reflections For The Feast 2003
Posted on 08/15/2003 5:10:23 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
REFLECTIONS FOR THE FEAST 2003
Christopher ODonnell, O.Carm.
In the Church before Vatican II (1962-1965) it was very difficult to have a chalice blessed. It required a bishop who consecrated the chalice and the paten by use of the most sacred of the holy oils, chrism the same oil that is used in confirmation. Nowadays people think much more of the use to which the chalice and paten are put: they contain the Body and Blood of the Lord. Once they have been used for Mass, they are sacred vessels. The body and blood of the Lord consecrates far more profoundly than chrism, even with a bishop.
If the sacred vessels are thus made irrevocably holy by their sacred use, what can be the holiness of the body of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who bore the Second Person of the Trinity for nine months? She is surely as perfectly holy as a creature can be through being Mother of God.
It is this thought of the holiness of Mary that helps us to grasp something of the mystery of the Assumption. This doctrine has been held by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches of the East and West for some 1500 years. Even earlier we find traces of the dogma in various legends about Marys Passing, called in the East her Dormition (Falling Asleep).
As always we should seek the meaning of a feast or season in the preface of the Mass. Here we read:
You would not allow decay to touch her body
For she had given birth to your Son
The Lord of all life in the glory of the Incarnation.
A reason for the Assumption is then that it was inappropriate for one who was mother of the Lord to suffer the corruption of death. But there is another reason:
Today the Virgin Mother of God was taken up into heaven
To be the beginning and pattern of the Church in its perfection
And a sign of hope and comfort for your people on their pilgrim way.
The centuries old faith in the Assumption of Mary was proclaimed a dogma of faith in 1950 by Pius XII. He did not add to the faith of the Church; he merely expressed with utter clarity and certainty what was this faith all along. The Popes proclamation says that when her earthly life was over Mary was assumed body and soul to heaven. Most Catholics believe that Mary died. If her Son died, why not the Mother also? But there has been an idea around for centuries that Mary did not die. It is very much a minority view, but Pius XII did not want to condemn it, so he used the phrase when her earthly life was over. The other phrase of the Pope is body and soul which is a rather dated way of speaking. A theologian speaking today might more likely use a phrase such as Mary fully as a person was glorified. This would include all that was meant by body and soul. The glorification is mysterious. We can say that whatever final glorification means, Mary already posses this gift.
Marys feasts are moments of celebration and beauty. Life is hard for many people. All the followers of Jesus at one time or another meet the Cross. We can at times find obedience to Christs law and teaching very difficult. The feasts of Mary are a holiday, when we can lift up our hearts; they are a time of repose when we can contemplate her beauty; they are a time of consolation when we look to the reward that Mary enjoys and that we hope for ourselves. Hence we can celebrate the feast and feel restored.
In our time there is some urgency about the two feasts of the Transfiguration of Jesus (6 August) and the Assumption of Mary (15 August). Both of these celebrations are about glory that overflows on to the body. In all times in Christian history there have been two false ideas about the human body. Firstly, there have been heretical sects that despise the body. They misinterpret passages of scripture such as Romans chapter seven, to conclude that the body is evil and the source of sin. In reply we can point to the triumphant statement in Genesis 1:27 that we are made in the image and likeness of God (and that includes our bodies). Again there are people who have a poor self-image, who think that their bodies are ugly and deformed. We may not all look like fashion models, but there is a profound beauty even in the most broken, diseased or damaged body. So these two feasts are to encourage us to have a healthy self-image also about our bodies.
There are also problems about the body from an opposite pole. Some people almost worship their bodies and excessively indulge themselves in food, clothes, ornaments and beauty aids. Of course it is right that we should aim to look good and to use such gifts what makes us feel good and what is appropriate for our family and our life situation. But we should also recognise when legitimate care of our bodies has gone too far, so that self-absorption and egocentricity become a form of idolatry.
Finally, there is an exploitation of the human body in all sorts of sinful ways: violence, abuse, manipulation and other awful crimes. The Church teaches reverence for the body, our own and that of others. Indeed one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit given at confirmation leads to such reverence. The feast of the Assumption shows us a way of reverence at the wonder and mystery of human life. We are beautiful and holy because our whole persons are members of Christs Body and are temples of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Cor 6:16.19).
We could also think of the sanctification of chalices and patens. If they are holy through being used at Mass, what about us who receive the Body and Blood of the Lord? We should recall the Lords promise: I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life and I will raise them up on the last day (John 6:51.54).
In the feast of the Transfiguration we look to Jesus, seeing his divine nature shining through his body. In the Assumption we look forward to sharing what Mary already possesses, the final glory marked out for her by God.
In the symbolism of the early and medieval Church, Christ has always been likened to the sun and Mary to the moon. The moon has no light of its own, only what it receives from the sun. Christs divinity was seen in the overpowering light of the Transfiguration. In the Assumption we contemplate the gentle light of the moon and look forward to the completion of glory in all others and ourselves.
Each evening the Church sings Marys Magnificat. Through reflecting on the Assumption we can more deeply penetrate Marys words, fulfilled in a way that has transcended all the expectations of the young woman of Nazareth: He that is mighty has done great things for me and holy is his name (Luke 1:49).
BTTT on the Feast of the Assumption, 08-15-04
BTTT, Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 15, 2005!
|THE ASSUMPTION OF MARY: A BELIEF SINCE APOSTOLIC TIMES|
|Father Clifford Stevens
|The Assumption is the oldest feast day of Our Lady, but we don't know how it first came to be celebrated.
Its origin is lost in those days when Jerusalem was restored as a sacred city, at the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (c. 285-337). By then it had been a pagan city for two centuries, ever since Emperor Hadrian (76-138) had leveled it around the year 135 and rebuilt it as <Aelia Capitolina> in honor of Jupiter.
For 200 years, every memory of Jesus was obliterated from the city, and the sites made holy by His life, death and Resurrection became pagan temples.
After the building of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 336, the sacred sites began to be restored and memories of the life of Our Lord began to be celebrated by the people of Jerusalem. One of the memories about his mother centered around the "Tomb of Mary," close to Mount Zion, where the early Christian community had lived.
On the hill itself was the "Place of Dormition," the spot of Mary's "falling asleep," where she had died. The "Tomb of Mary" was where she was buried.
At this time, the "Memory of Mary" was being celebrated. Later it was to become our feast of the Assumption.
For a time, the "Memory of Mary" was marked only in Palestine, but then it was extended by the emperor 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" ("Dormitio") of the Mother of God.
Soon the name was changed to the "Assumption of Mary," since there was more to the feast than her dying. It also proclaimed that she had been taken up, body and soul, into heaven.
That belief was ancient, dating back to the apostles themselves. 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.)
At the Council of Chalcedon in 451, when bishops from throughout the Mediterranean world gathered in Constantinople, Emperor Marcian asked the Patriarch of Jerusalem to bring the relics of Mary to Constantinople to be enshrined in the capitol. The patriarch explained to the emperor that there were no relics of Mary in Jerusalem, 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."
In the eighth century, St. John Damascene was known for giving sermons at the holy places in Jerusalem. At the Tomb of Mary, he expressed the belief of the Church on the meaning of the feast: "Although the body was duly buried, it did not remain in the state of death, neither was it dissolved by decay. . . . You were transferred to your heavenly home, O Lady, Queen and Mother of God in truth."
All the feast days of Mary mark the great mysteries of her life and her part in the work of redemption. The central mystery of her life and person is her divine motherhood, celebrated both at Christmas and a week later (Jan. 1) on the feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. The Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8) marks the preparation for that motherhood, so that she had the fullness of grace from the first moment of her existence, completely untouched by sin. Her whole being throbbed with divine life from the very beginning, readying her for the exalted role of mother of the Savior.
The Assumption completes God's work in her since it was not fitting that the flesh that had given life to God himself should ever undergo corruption. The Assumption is God's crowning of His work as Mary ends her earthly life and enters eternity. The feast turns our eyes in that direction, where we will follow when our earthly life is over.
The feast days of the Church are not just the commemoration of historical events; they do not look only to the past. They look to the present and to the future and give us an insight into our own relationship with God. The Assumption looks to eternity and gives us hope that we, too, will follow Our Lady when our life is ended.
The prayer for the feast reads: "All-powerful and ever-living God: You raised the sinless Virgin Mary, mother of your Son, body and soul, to the glory of heaven. May we see heaven as our final goal and come to share her glory."
In 1950, in the Apostolic Constitution <Munificentissimus Deus>, Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Assumption of Mary a dogma of the Catholic Church in these words: "The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heaven."
With that, an ancient belief became Catholic doctrine and the Assumption was declared a truth revealed by God.
Father Clifford Stevens writes from Tintern Monastery in Oakdale, Neb.
This article was taken from the July-August 1996 issue of "Catholic Heritage".
Provided Courtesy of:
August 15, 2005
Assumption of Mary
On November 1, 1950, Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary to be a dogma of faith: We pronounce, declare and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that the immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul to heavenly glory. The pope proclaimed this dogma only after a broad consultation of bishops, theologians and laity. There were few dissenting voices. What the pope solemnly declared was already a common belief in the Catholic Church.
We find homilies on the Assumption going back to the sixth century. In following centuries the Eastern Churches held steadily to the doctrine, but some authors in the West were hesitant. However, by the thirteenth century there was universal agreement. The feast was celebrated under various names (Commemoration, Dormition, Passing, Assumption) from at least the fifth or sixth century.
Scripture does not give an account of Marys Assumption into heaven. Nevertheless, Revelation 12 speaks of a woman who is caught up in the battle between good and evil. Many see this woman as Gods people. Since Mary best embodies the people of both Old and New Testament, her Assumption can be seen as an exemplification of the womans victory.
Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 15:20 Paul speaks of Christs resurrection as the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.Since Mary is closely associated with all the mysteries of Jesus life, it is not surprising that the Holy Spirit has led the Church to belief in Marys share in his glorification. So close was she to Jesus on earth, she must be with him body and soul in heaven.
Catholics worship no one except God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. To state otherwise is to show a gross lack of understanding of the Catholic faith.
"Mary is beautiful in herself as the moon, radiates her brilliance as the sun; but against 'the enemy' she is formidable; terrible as an army arrayed for war. As we rejoice and exalt her today, God knows how we would like to forget the difficulties of the times in which we live....There is the 'enemy' even at the very doors of the Church, threatening souls. And behold, another aspect of Mary: her power in combat....Mary, sinless, has crushed the head of the corrupting serpent. When Mary approaches, the demon flees - just as darkness dissipates when the sun rises. Where Mary is present, Satan is absent; where the sun shines, there is no darkness" (Pius XII, Address, Dec. 8, 1953).
"Mary, most powerful Virgin, You are the mighty and glorious Protector of the Church. You are the marvelous Help of Christians. You are awe-inspiring as an army in battle array. You have destroyed heresy in the world. In the midst of our anguish, our struggle and our distress defend us from the power of the enemy, and at the hour of our death receive our soul into heaven. Amen."
St. John Bosco
BTTT on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 15, 2006!