The Solemnity of the Assumption
This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, one of those unique Catholic celebrations which is not shared with our Protestant Christian brethren. Although the Assumption was only defined in the official teaching of the Church in 1950 by Pope Pius XII, it’s origins and traditions go right back to the days of the Early Church. What the Assumption celebrates is the truth that at the end of her earthly life Mary was taken up into heaven body and soul, and ‘exulted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death (CCC 966).
It has been an ancient tradition from the Early Church that all of the Apostles except Thomas were present at the end of Mary’s life here on earth. The continued mystery is that we don’t know if Mary died first and then was assumed body and soul into heaven, or was she taken up into heaven like Elijah was in a whirlwind? The tradition is skant on detail, but the Eastern Church calls this Solemnity the falling asleep of Mary.
The Western Church favours Mary actually dying, just as her son Jesus died and that it was at the moment of her death that she was assumed into heaven. Mary became in the end the Resurrection of her Son, so her assumption could be called an arrival.
Mary we know had a life like ours, she was in the nitty gritty of the everyday as we are. Her life was sometimes full of light and hope and at other times her life was full of pain, suffering and darkness.
So what does this mean for us as Christians today? Well, the assumption of the Blessed virgin Mary into heaven confirms for us, just as Christ’s resurrection did, that death is not the end but a new beginning. Jesus triumphed over death and opened the Kingdom of heaven to all believers – so it should be no surprise to us that Jesus’ mother, immaculately conceived into the world should also be assumed into the heavenly realm.
As Catholic’s we often ask to Mary to intercede on our behalf with the understanding that every good son always listens to his mother. Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine at the wedding feast in Canaan after Mary’s appeal for action. Jesus listened to his mother and acted, it continues to be the same today. Jesus listens to his Mother, so if we find we are not getting any answer to prayer, why not ask Mary for her help and intercessions and a nudging of her Son in the right direction.