(Rev.11:19,12:1-6,10,Ps.44, 1Cor.15:20-26 & Lk. 1:39-56)
The Church celebrates on the 15th August annually, the SOLEMNITY of the ASSUMPTION of the BLESSED VIRGIN MARY. In the entire Catholic world, this SOLEMNITY is one of the four traditional Holy days of Obligation which include; Christmas, Ascension ASSUMPTION and All Saints. The Church celebrates them as Sunday irrespective of whatever day of the week any of them occurs.
Meanwhile, what is the Church really celebrating in the Solemnity of ASSUMPTION? Simply put, the Church celebrates the Assumption of Mary into heaven. The Church tradition has it that, the body of the Blessed Virgin Mary -the Mother of the Word Incarnate, did not experience corruption at the end of her life here on earth. Rather that, she was assumed body and soul into heaven where her Incarnate Son, Jesus had ascended to.
Some non Catholics do not resonate with this tradition and belief, simply because the event of the Assumption is not recorded in the New Testament scripture. They seem to forget that, it is not every event which happened in the first century of the Christian tradition that were recorded in the New Testament. Not because they were less important that they didn’t find their way into the New Testament but simply because some of them happened years after the New Testament canonicity. Just like the martyrdom events of the Apostles. Apart from James who was the very first Apostle to be martyred in the hands of Herod. This happened very much earlier and so it was recorded in the New Testament, (Acts 12:1-2). Besides this, the rest of the Apostles who died later were not recorded in the New Testament at all.
For instance, Peter who was crucified upside in Rome at his request, since he did not feel he was worthy to die in the same manner as his Master. Matthew who ministered in Persia and Ethiopia was stabbed to death in Ethiopia. Thomas who was pierced through with the spears of four soldiers in India where he ministered. Andrew who preached in Asia Minor, the present day Turkey and in Greece where he was crucified. The story continued thus with the rest of the Apostles. That their respective death incidents were not recorded in the New Testament does not imply that they never died the way they did. The same with the event of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Besides, there is no tradition that records the place of Mary’s tomb anywhere. It suffices just to say that, the Assumption is a divine privilege granted to Mary.
This tradition and belief was already present in the early century and by the Twelfth Century it was widespread in the entire Church. However, in 1950 Pope Pius XII in consultation with the College of Bishops all over the world formally and infallibly declared the DOCTRINE OF ASSUMPTION A DOGMA OF FAITH AND A HOLY DAY OF OBLIGATION. The Theology of Assumption holds that, it is a privilege which God grants to Mary from whom Jesus who did not experience bodily corruption at His death, took His human body at the Incarnation event. Hence, God would not allow Mary’s body, the place of divine Incarnation, to experience corruption at the end of her life.
The place and role of Blessed Virgin Mary in the history of our salvation is indispensable. In her humility and purity of heart, God chose Mary as an instrument for the Mystery of Christ Incarnation and God sent the Angel Gabriel to bring her the Annunciation message. Mary totally abandoned Her Will to God and gave consent to the angel’s message, saying that, God should use her for whatever He wants of her. In her consenting words, Mary says; “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to Your word” -(Lk 1:38). This is called, ‘Willing-Obedience’. I wonder how many of us that would be willing to make such declaration to God when God makes demands of us. Some of us would rather say, in our determined self-will, ‘I am your handmaid, let what I want be done in you, O Lord’.
As we gather tod
ay with the entire Church to celebrate Mary’s Assumption, we are celebrating what God has done in Mary and with Mary. She is the highest honour of our race with the privilege honour of being God-bearer, the seat of the Mystery of the Incarnation. Hence, the Magnificat in today’s Gospel reading declares that, ‘All generations shall call her Blessed’, -(Lk 1:48). We therefore, honour Mary because God has firstly given her the honour of being the Mother of God which supersedes every other honour and as well Assumed her body and soul into heaven at the end of her life.
Meanwhile, our celebration of Mary’s Assumption would just remain a mere celebration to us, if we do not imitate Mary in her outstanding virtues of Humility, Purity of heart, Willing-obedience and Lovely compassion which she demonstrates in today’s gospel reading, as she visits her cousin Elizabeth who conceived in her old age, to share her joy and spent up to three months with her.
Above all, may we like Mary imbibe the heart of Willing-obedience , giving God the first place in your life and allowing Him to do with you whatever His purpose for you is. By allowing God to do with us whatever He wills, we will certainly be where God wants us to be at the end of our lives, like Mary.