Today, August 15th, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1950, Pope Pius XII proclaimed that Mary was assumed into heaven body and soul. Almighty God brought her to heaven and allowed her to experience what death was like before the sin of Adam and Eve. Mary was sinless, untouched by the stain of original sin (the dogma of the Immaculate Conception pronounced in 1854 by Pope Pius IX). She remained sinless throughout her life.
This is a teaching that has been in the Church since the beginning. Tradition held that Mary fell asleep and then her body and soul were taken up into heaven. In the beginning, we human beings were made body and soul never to be separated. One of the results of sin is the rupture of that union of body and soul. This is what we call the experience of death. At the end of time, body and soul will be reunited for all eternity. Mary’s body, however, was not separated from her soul because she was never tainted with the stain of sin. She remained an integral, whole human being her whole life.
We also see this truth related to the central fact of Mary being the Mother of God, the Theotokos (God-bearer). She bore the Word made flesh, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity in her womb for nine months and gave birth to Him at Bethlehem. From that central mystery, everything the Church teaches about our Blessed Mother flows. Almighty God chose her to be the beautiful vessel through which He came to the world in human flesh.
Catholics are not the only ones who teach this. Our brothers and sisters in the Eastern Churches and the Orthodox celebrate this truth also. The Lutheran Church celebrates this feast as “St. Mary, Mother of God.” (If you are curious, google Martin Luther quotes on Mary) The Anglican Communion celebrates this too. The acknowledgement of the importance of Mary across these lines of division testify to the beautiful gift of this truth to the Church.
Our Blessed Mother Mary experiences what all her children hope to experience – the union of body and soul in our heavenly homeland. She is the first member (human only) of the Church to experience this gift. (Her son, Jesus, is fully human and fully divine. She was only fully human.) Today we celebrate this gift Almighty God has given her and we pray that through her help and intercession, we might join her body and soul in union with God in heaven!
Have a wonderful week and may the Lord bless you and your families abundantly!
~ Fr. Daniel Firmin