Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Assumption of Mary

Today August 15 we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary to heaven.  We remember how our Lady was taken to heaven by our Lord.

Her body did not face decay.  Mary did not resurrect, nor did she rise to heaven on her own power.  God took her body and soul to eternity in heaven.  She sits at the right hand of Jesus interceding for all of us.

This is important to clarify because our separated brethren are sometimes under the impression that Catholics view Mary as some goddess.  She is not a goddess.  She is the "handmaid of the Lord," a mere creature of God just like we are.  She was preserved by God from sin and the death all humans have experienced since Adam and Eve.  

This feast day is one of the oldest in Christianity.  It originates from about the 5/6th century and was celebrated in the East as "The Dormition" or the sleep of Mary.  The earliest text we have of this comes from the 4th century in the "Falling asleep of the Holy Mother of God" and account by St. John.  (

Many ask if Mary died just like any other human.  Some say she just fell asleep, while others say she did die.  It is most likely that the former is more probable because Scripture says in Romans 6:23 that the "wages of sin is death."  Since Mary was conceived without sin, she could not owe these wages that would result in death.  Moreover, Acts 13:35 and Psalms 16:10 state that God won't allow His holy ones to rot in the grave.  In light of this, we can know that Mary did not decay.  She being sinless was preserved from death and decay.

The idea of someone being taken to heaven body and soul by God is not new.  Enoch in Genesis 5:22-29 was taken by God.  We also read about Elijah experiencing the same in 2 Kings 2:11.

The Assumption of Mary became a defined dogma on November 1, 1950, when Pope Pius XII declared it in his encyclical Munificentissimus Deus.  This is a great day for all of us.  It is a reminder of what God has planned for those who hang in there in the Faith.

This is a holy day of obligation where Catholics must go to Mass and treat the day as if it were a Sunday.  In some dioceses, the day is not obligatory if it falls on a Monday or Saturday.  It is important to check with your parish or diocese beforehand.  If this is the case, one can still participate in the Mass or do some other form of penance or good work.  More prayer and more faith work aren't bad at all.  

Mary is one of us.  She is human.  She made it!   She is an inspiration to us all.  May Our Blessed Lady pray for us and help us follow her Son more closely.

Father in heaven,

all creation rightly gives you praise,

for all life and all holiness come from you.

In the plan of your wisdom
she who bore the Christ in her womb
was raised body and soul in glory to be with him in heaven.
May we follow her example in reflecting your holiness
and join in her hymn of endless love and praise.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Reflection on today's readings:

Today's readings pretty much reflect on today's solemnity.  It is rare for this solemnity to fall on a Sunday. The last time this happened was in 2010. The first reading from Revelation is apocalyptic literature or a literary genre that uses images and symbols. We should not take them literally. The great sign of a woman dressed with the sun, crowned with stars, and standing over the moon is a representation of the Virgin Mary and the Catholic Church.  The red dragon is a representation of Lucifer and the Pagan Roman Empire.  The only pregnant woman that Christians focused on was Mary, so we know this woman represents her.  The Church is also represented as a female or mother, so we know this female image represents the Catholic Church too.  Since the beginning, in the book of Genesis, we know of the tension between Mary and the serpent. Here we see it in this reading. Mary vs the dragon or reptilian creature. As stated, the woman is also the Church at the time of emperors Diocletian and Nero who were persecuting the Catholic Church.  Mary has appeared dressed in this form. 

Sacerdotus: Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico and Our Lady of the Universe in the Bronx are great examples.  Mary wears the sun, has a crown of stars, and stands on the moon. These represent that she is above creation and pagan deities often represented by natural things in the universe. However, one is above her and that is God. Mary is not a god or goddess. We must make this clear.  The dragon with seven heads represents pagan Rome. Rome has seven famous hills.  The 10 horns represent the provinces of the Roman government. Horns are a sign of power. Think of a bull with its powerful horns. The seven diadems are the famous diadems we see Romans depicted with behind their ears. So basically, here we see the woman and the dragon going after her child and then the rest of her children.

This is Mary with Jesus and also the Church with all of us in the first century and now. The chapter of course reflects more on the situation in the first century when the emperors were persecuting the Christians.  Clearly, the force behind Rome was the devil. We know this because of the imagery of the tail carrying off a third of the stars. This is Lucifer as he took with him a third of the angels. They were cast to the earth.  These angels are the demons who were once angels like Lucifer but were too arrogant to serve God. They are on earth prowling about looking for souls. These are the demons who possess people and cause havoc around the world. So the first reading reminds us of what our ancestors faced and also reminds us that Mary is an important figure. 

She is the queen as the Psalm tells us: "The queen stands at your right hand arrayed in gold."  Mary is indeed the queen. In Jewish tradition, the King of Israel also had his mother as queen. Jesus being a descendent of King David followed the same tradition. Mary is the queen. She sits at His right hand interceding for us.  She takes her place at Christ's right hand.  Only Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father. Jesus is the one mediator between God and man, but Mary is the most important mediator between Christ and man. 

The second reading reminds us of the Assumption. When someone dies we say "Rest in peace." This is because we believe the dead are asleep.  Even though their bodies rot away, they are resting awaiting the coming of Christ when they will come back to life and be judged.  Everyone has to die.  Even Jesus died.  If Jesus died, then Mary had to die too. Scripture tells us that the wages of sin is death; so why did Jesus and Mary die if both were sinless?  Well, they were human. Jesus was true God and true man so He had to experience everything a human does except sin.  Mary was totally human, but sinless, so she experienced everything humans experience except sin. However, Mary is not God.  She cannot resurrect herself. She cannot prevent death.  Therefore, it is believed based on  tradition that Mary simply went to sleep. She literally rested in peace and did not die in the sense we all die from natural causes. It is believed that she was in her 70s when this happened. Christ then took her body and soul to heaven because Mary cannot resurrect herself or ascend to heaven of her own volition. She is a creature of God subject to Him. Scripture tells us that the holy will not know decay, so it makes sense for Jesus to take Mary's body. She was holy and sinless from conception to death, so she could not rot or decay. She is the image of what we all will experience if we become saints. Christ is above death and preserved his own mother by taking her body and soul to heaven to be the queen of the Universe and heaven. 

The Gospel reminds us how important Mary is that the baby in Elizabeth's womb lept for joy.  Elizabeth filled with the Holy Spirit utters the words of the Hail Mary acknowledging Mary to be blessed in death.  Mary responds with her Magnificat reminding us all that all generations will call her blessed.  Protestants who dislike Mary truly do not value Scripture if they ignore this Gospel. If the Holy Spirit brought Elizabeth and Mary to proclaim these words, then why can we not proclaim them?  Do we know better than the Holy Spirit?  Mary is a very important figure in Christianity. This is why we offer her hyperdulia or a special high veneration. She is our model of what Christ wants us to be.  We do not worship her, but honor her because Christ honored her as His mom, and the entire Trinity honored her as their prized creation. She is the one that is "full of grace" and the "favored one of God," as the archangel Gabriel told us in the Gospel of Luke.  Let us foster devotion to Our Lady. She is very important. She points us to Christ.  Her last recorded words were, "Do whatever He (Christ) tells you."  What awesome words!  

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