Aug 15: Assumption and Independence

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The Gospel of Jesus and Mary

There is an old story about a workman on a scaffolding high above the nave of a cathedral who looked down and saw a woman praying before a statue of Mary. As a joke, the workman whispered, "Woman, this is Jesus." The woman ignored him. The workman whispered again, more loudly: "Woman, this is Jesus." Again, the woman ignored him. Finally, he said aloud, "Woman, don't you hear me? This is Jesus." At this point the woman looked up at the crucifix and said, "Be still now, Jesus, I'm talking to your mother." Why do Catholics treasure Marian devotions and doctrines that their non-Catholic brothers and sisters do not? It is because, I think, the Catholic Church is trying to tell the full story, to proclaim the full gospel.
But isn't the gospel all about Christ and what he did and taught? Yes and no. The gospel is about Christ in the same way that the story of the Fall is about Adam. "For as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:22). That is why we call Christ the new Adam. But as soon as we say that, we become aware of a missing link. The story of the Fall is not only the story of Adam but the story of Adam and Eve. If Jesus is the new Adam, who then is the new Eve? Mary is the new Eve. Just as the full story of our Fall cannot be told without Eve, so also the full story of our Redemption cannot be told without Mary. There are many revealing parallels between the old Adam and Eve on the one hand and the new Adam and Eve, Jesus and Mary, on the other. Here are some of them.  

In the old order, the woman (Eve) came from the body of the man (Adam), but in the new order the man (Jesus) comes from the body of the woman (Mary).

In the old order, the woman (Eve) first disobeyed God and led the man (Adam) to do the same, in the new order the woman (Mary) first said "Yes" to God (Luke 1:38) and raised her son Jesus to do likewise.  

Adam and Eve had a good time together disobeying God, Jesus and Mary suffered together doing God's will. The sword of sorrow pierced their hearts equally (John 19:34; Luke 2:35b).

In the old order Adam and Eve shared immediately in the resulting consequences and punishments of the Fall. In the new order, similarly, both Jesus and Mary share immediately in the resulting consequences and blessings of the Redemption, the fullness of life with God; Jesus through the Ascension and Mary through the Assumption.

The doctrine of the Assumption teaches that at the end of her earthly existence, the Blessed Virgin Mary was taken up (assumed), body and soul, into heaven. That means, therefore, that there are two human bodies we know to be in heaven with God at this time: the human body of Jesus and that of Mary. In this doctrine we see the collaboration of man and woman in the work of our salvation all the way from the Fall to the Redemption to sharing in the fruit of Redemption in heaven. Without the Assumption to balance the Ascension, the man Jesus alone without the woman Mary would be enjoying the fullness of salvation with God and we would be telling only a part of the story. The Assumption is the ultimate proof of the equality of man and woman before God. It also shows the sacredness and eternal destiny of the human body, including the woman’s body which is desecrated by pornography and the sex trade. The Assumption enables us to tell the full story, the full gospel that salvation is for all Men, male and female, and for the whole Man, body and soul.

Marian doctrine and devotion, properly understood and practised, does not lead believers away from, but rather more deeply into, the mystery of Christ. The woman in prayer who thinks that Jesus should keep still because she is talking with his mother has lost sight of the perfect harmony of wills and hearts between Mary and Jesus which we see most clearly in the Wedding Feast at Cana where Mary commands us: "Do whatever he (Jesus) tells you" (John 2:5).


 Mary looked over at John writing at his table and smiled. He had always looked so young and the years had not aged him very much. She could understand why Jesus had such a special place in his heart for John, with his gentle ways and his easy love for people.  

She gathered her cloak around her against the cold and closed her eyes as she thought about the many years of her life. So much of it was beyond understanding and yet she believed it and accepted it. She had been given a courage, faith and humility that could only be a gift from God. How else could she have overcome her fears and said "Yes" when Gabriel asked her to be the mother of the Savior? Her son, Jesus, had been a wonder in her life. She had not always understood all of what he did but she knew he had a special role on earth. Their hearts had been bound together in faith and an unbreakable love. She had watched him leave home, teach, heal and challenge the authorities. Her heart had been pierced with such sorrow when he was arrested and tortured and finally put to death. Her faith in the Father had carried her through those days, and the incredible joy-filled days that came after. 

"Imma?" John, said using the most intimate form of "mother." He laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. "You are so quiet these days." She smiled at him with affection. "Dearest John, my life has been long and I have so much to be grateful for. These years together have been so full."  

It was true. In the weeks after he had risen, Jesus had spoken to them of a new order, a new way of life. She had resisted the urge to cling to him and not let him go again. She had to trust. "I will be with you always," he had said. In her heart, she knew it was true and once again opened her life fully to God's will. She watched with joy as he was taken up into the clouds. In the years that had followed, his message and life had given hope and meaning to a growing number of followers. She had spoken to so many of the disciples and followers in those times.  

Jesus was in her life, too, in a vivid and very real way. She felt his presence with her as she grew tired. She spoke to him from her heart constantly, just as she did when he was on earth. She felt a strong connection that was as unexplainable as it was real. She closed her eyes again in thought. 

"Imma," came the familiar, loving voice. "Blessed are you among women." She knew it was different. She was not in John's house but with Jesus, standing in a place that filled her with a different kind of joy. "My son," she said softly as they embraced. She felt his cheek firmly against hers.  

She did not know how or why. There were no questions and no answers for this. He had promised her she would be with him and the Father. She touched her body in wonder and knew she had been drawn to a different place by power not her own. It was her same body and yet different, more vibrant.  

"You said 'Yes' to the Father's request, Imma," Jesus said to her. "Your life was prepared in a special way and you followed it with such faith. You made my work possible." 

She knew that somehow she was experiencing the resurrection in a way others would have to wait for. As she had so many times before, she paused and opened her heart in prayer. "The Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his Name."



By Fr. Tony Kadavil

 Synopsis: We honor Mary, venerate her, express our love for her and never worship her. Why do we honor Mary: 1) Mary herself gives the most important reason in  her “Magnificat:” “All generations (ages) will call me blessed because the “The Mighty One has done great things for me” a) by choosing  Mary as the mother of Jesus  b) by filling her with His Holy Spirit twice, namely at the Annunciation and at Pentecost, c) by making her  “full of grace,” the paragon or embodiment of all virtues, d) by allowing her to become the most active participant with Christ, her Son, in our redemption, by suffering in mind what Jesus suffered in body. 2) Mary is our heavenly Mother.  Jesus gave us his Mother as our Mother from the cross: “Woman, behold your son.” … “Behold your mother” (John 19: 26-27). 3) Mary is the supreme model of all virtues, especially holiness of life (“full of grace”), obedience to the will of God (“fiat”) and true humility (“Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me as you wish”). 

Reasons why we believe in the dogma of Assumption:  Pope Pius XII in the papal document, Munificentimus Deus gives four reasons why we believe in the dogma of assumption of Mary. 1) The uninterrupted tradition about Mary’s death and assumption starting from the first century. 2) The belief expressed in all the ancient liturgies of the Church. 3) The negative evidence of the absence and veneration of a tomb of Mary while most of the apostles have their tombs. 4) The possibility of bodily assumption warranted in the Old Testament in the cases of Enoch (Gen. 5:24), perhaps Moses (Deut. 34:5), and especially Elijah (II Kg. 2:1).5) The theological reasons: a) The degeneration of the body after death is the consequence of “original sin,” and Mary, as “immaculately conceived,” is exempted from the post-mortem decay of the body.  b) As receiver of the fullness of grace and holiness, as mother of Jesus and as co-redeemer, Mary’s place is with her son Jesus, the redeemer, in the abode of holiness, heaven. 

Life messages: 1) As Mary’s Assumption was a reward for a holy life, this feast invites us to keep our bodies pure and holy.  Paul gives three additional reasons: a) our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, b) our body parts are the members of Christ’s body, and c) our bodies are to be glorified on the day of the Last Judgment. 

2)   We are given an assurance of hope in our resurrection and a source of inspiration during moments of despair and temptations. 

3)   We receive a message of total liberation from all our bondages: impure, unjust and uncharitable thoughts, desires, words and actions, addiction to evil habits, drugs, alcohol and gambling, pornography and sexual aberrations.   

Aug 15th Feast of Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary (Revelation 11: 19, 12: 1-6, 10; I Cor 15: 20-27; Luke 1: 39-56) 

Anecdote: # 1: Like is attracted to like. Such attraction continues to take place every day, even though we may not always be aware of it. People who have similar likes, interests, and goals are drawn to one another. This is the reason why there are fraternities and sororities, why there are country club people, Rotarians, Masons, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Peter Claver, and Daughters of the American Revolution. They all have things in common which draw them together. That is why we also have the Ku Klux Klan, street gangs and the Mafia. Like is attracted to like. Ever notice how children follow along after their mothers? From one room to another, they tag along. And the more they are near their mothers, the more they become like them. They begin thinking, acting, and being like their mothers. We all have in common a very special mother we are honoring today. We have been drawn here together to honor Mary, the mother of Jesus, and our mother too, as we recall her Assumption into heaven. If like is attracted to like, does that mean we try to emulate her virtues and imitate her by learning more about her, by honoring her and by celebrating her feasts? (Fr. Jack Dorsel) 

# 2: Carl Jung on the Assumption: It was in 1950, that the famed Lutheran Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, and an influential thinker, the founder of analytical psychology, remarked that the papal announcement of the Assumption of Mary, in 1950, was "the most important religious event since the Reformation." (Storr, p. 324). The Assumption means that, along with the glorified masculine body of Jesus in heaven, there is also a glorified feminine body of his mother, Mary.  According to Jung, "bodily reception of the Virgin into heaven" (Ibid.) meant that "the heavenly bride was united with the bridegroom," (Ibid., p. 322) which union "signifies the hieros gamos" [the sacred marriage]. (Ibid.) Acknowledging that the Assumption "is vouched for neither in scripture nor in the tradition of the first five centuries of the Christian Church," Jung observes that:  "the Papal declaration made a reality of what had long been condoned.  This irrevocable step beyond the confines of historical Christianity is the strongest proof of the autonomy of archetypal images." (Storr, p. 297). Jung remarks that “the Protestant standpoint . . . is obviously out of touch with the tremendous archetypal happenings in the psyche of the individual and the masses, and with the symbols which are intended to compensate the truly apocalyptic world situation today." (Ibid., pp. 322-323)  Jung added: “Protestantism has obviously not given sufficient attention to the signs of the times which point to the equality of women.  But this equality requires to be metaphysically anchored in the figure of a 'divine' woman. . . .  The feminine, like the masculine, demands an equally personal representation.” (Ibid., p. 325)   Quotes from : Jung, C. G.  Modern Man in Search of a Soul.  Translated by W. S. Dell and C. F. Baynes. (Princeton, New Jersey: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers, San Diego. 1933); and: Storr, Anthony (Ed.).  The Essential Jung. (Princeton University Press, 1983). 

# 3: Taj Mahal: The Taj Mahal has been described as a “love song in marble.” Completed in 1645, the magnificent marble mausoleum was built by Shah Jahan, India’s Mogul emperor, in memory of his favorite wife, Princess Arjemand. Shah Jahan loved her deeply, calling her his ‘Taj Mahal’, meaning ‘The Pearl of the Palace.” But Princess Arjemand died giving birth to their fourteenth child and the emperor was inconsolable. So he summoned a great architect from Persia to build the Taj Mahal, telling him that it must be ‘the one perfect thing in the world.’ Seventeen years were needed to build this enchanting edifice of gleaming white marble embroidered with flashing jewels. It is an enduring monument to love that still inspires tourists, artists and writers from all over the world. This beautiful love story gives us some idea of how much God must have loved Mary, the mother of Jesus. Today’s feast of her assumption into heaven is proof of this. By raising her from the dead and taking her into heaven – body and soul – God demonstrated his undying love for Mary. Like Shah Jahan, God could not bear the death of his beloved. However, God could do what no Indian emperor could do – raise his beloved from the dead and restore her to life even more beautiful than before. Moreover, God didn’t have to build a Taj Mahal to memorialize Mary. Her glorified body is itself a magnificent temple of the Holy Spirit. 
(Albert Cylwicki in “His Word Resounds”).  

Introduction: The Feast of the Assumption is one of the most important feasts of our Lady.  Catholics believe in the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven. We believe that when her earthly life was finished, Mary was taken up, body and soul, into heavenly glory, where the Lord exalted her as Queen of Heaven. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 966).  The Assumption is the feast of Mary’s total liberation from death and decay, the consequences of original sin.  It is also the remembrance of the day when the Church gave official recognition to the centuries-old belief of Christians about the Assumption of their heavenly mother.  In the Orthodox Church, the koimesis, or dormitio ("falling asleep") of the Virgin began to be commemorated on August 15 in the 6th century.  The observance gradually spread to the West, where it became known as the feast of the Assumption.  By the 13th century, the belief had been accepted by most Catholic theologians, and it was a popular subject with Renaissance and Baroque painters.  It was on November 1, 1950, that, through the Apostolic Constitution Munificentimus Deus, Pope Pius XII officially declared the Assumption as a dogma of Catholic faith.  On this important feast day, we try to answer two questions:  1) What is meant by "Assumption?"  2) Why do we believe in Mary’s Assumption into heaven despite the fact that there is no reference to it in the Bible?  “Assumption” means that after her death, Mary was taken into heaven, both body and soul, as a reward for her sacrificial cooperation in the divine plan of salvation.  “On this feast day, let us thank the Lord for the gift of the Mother, and let us pray to Mary to help us find the right path every day” (Pope Benedict XVI). 

Exegesis: Scripture on Mary’s death and Assumption.   Although there  is no direct reference to Mary’s death and Assumption in the New Testament,  two cases of assumption are mentioned in the Old Testament, namely, those of Enoch (Genesis 5: 24) and  Elijah (2 Kings 2:1).  These references support the possibility of Mary’s assumption.  The possibility of bodily assumption is also indirectly suggested by Matthew 27: 52-53 and I Cor. 15: 23-24.  In his official declaration of the dogma, the Pope also cites the scriptural verses Ps 131:8, Cant 3:6, Rev 12, Is 61:13 and Cant 8:5.  
Tradition on Mary’s Assumption: The fact of Mary’s death is generally accepted by the Church Fathers and theologians and is expressly affirmed in the liturgy of the Church.  Origen (died AD 253), St. Jerome (died AD 419) and St. Augustine (died AD 430), among others, argue that Mary’s death was  not a punishment for  sin, but only the result of her being a descendant of Adam and Eve. When Pope Pius XII made the proclamation on November 1, 1950, he put into words a belief held by the faithful for over 1500 years. ‘Way back in AD 325, the Council of Nicaea spoke of the Assumption of Mary. Writing in AD 457, the Bishop of Jerusalem said that when Mary’s tomb was opened, it was "found empty. The apostles judged her body had been taken into heaven.” 

Pope Pius XII based his declaration of the Assumption on both tradition and theology.  The uninterrupted tradition in the Eastern Churches starting from the first century, the apocryphal first century book, Transitus Mariae, and the writings of the early Fathers of the Church, such as St. Gregory and St John Damascene, supported and promoted the popular belief in the Assumption of Mary.  There is a tomb at the foot of the Mt. of Olives where ancient tradition says that Mary was laid.  But there is nothing inside.  There are no relics, as with the other saints. This is acceptable negative evidence of Mary’s Assumption.  Besides, credible apparitions of Mary, though not recorded in the New Testament, have been recorded from the 3rd century till today.

In his decree on the dogma of the Assumption, Pope Pius XII gives four theological reasons to support this traditional belief.

 #1: The degeneration or decay of the body after death is the result of original sin.  However, since, through a special intervention of God, Mary was born without original sin, it is not proper that God would permit her body to degenerate in the tomb.

 #2: Since Mary was given the fullness of grace, heaven is the proper place for this sinless mother of Jesus. 

 #3: Mary was our co-redeemer, or fellow-redeemer, with Christ in a unique sense.  Hence, her rightful place is with Christ our redeemer in heavenly glory. (The term co-redeemer or co-redemptrix means "cooperator with the Redeemer.” This is what St. Paul meant when he said "We are God's co-workers" I Cor. 3:9.). Hence, it is “fitting” that she should be given the full effects of the Redemption, which is the glorification of the soul and the body. 

#4: In the Old Testament, we read that the prophet Elijah was taken into heaven in a fiery chariot.  Thus, it appears natural and possible that the mother of Jesus would also be taken into heaven. 

Scripture readings of the day: The first and third readings are about women and God’s creative, redemptive and salvific action through them.  The Book of Revelation, written in symbolic language familiar to the early Christians, was meant to encourage them and bolster their faith during times of persecution.  In the first reading, the author of Revelation probably did not have Mary of Nazareth in mind when he described the “woman” in this narrative.  He uses the “woman” as a symbol for the nation and people, Israel.  She is pictured as giving birth, as Israel brought forth the Messiah through its pains. The woman is also symbolic of the Church, and the woman’s offspring represents the way the Church brings Christ into the world.  The dragon represents the world's resistance to Christ and the truths that the Church proclaims.  As Mary is the mother of Christ and of the Church, the passage has indirect reference to Mary. (Navarre Bible Commentary: The description of the woman indicates her heavenly glory, and the twelve stars of her victorious crown symbolize the people of God—the twelve patriarchs (cf. Gen 37:9) and the twelve apostles. And so, independently of the chronological aspects of the text, the Church sees in this heavenly woman the Blessed Virgin, "taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, when her earthly life was over, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords (cf. Rev 19:16) and conqueror of sin and death” (Lumen Gentium 59). 

The second reading, taken from I Corinthians, is Paul’s defense of the resurrection of the dead, an apt selection on the feast of our heavenly Mother’s Assumption into heaven.  In the Magnificat, or song of Mary, given in today’s gospel, Mary acknowledges that “the Almighty has done great things” for her. Besides honoring her as Jesus’ mother, God has blessed her with the gift of bodily Assumption.  God, who has "lifted up" his "lowly servant" Mary, lifts up all the lowly, not only because they are faithful, but also because God is faithful to the promise of divine mercy.  Thus, the feast of the Assumption celebrates the mercy of God or the victory of God’s mercy as expressed in Mary’s Magnificat.  

Life messages: #1: Mary’s Assumption gives us the assurance and hope of our own resurrection and assumption into heaven on the day of our Last Judgment. It is a sign to us that someday, through God’s grace and our good life, we, too, will join the Blessed Mother in giving glory to God. It points the way for all followers of Christ who imitate Mary’s fidelity and obedience to God’s will.                                                                                     
#2: Since Mary’s Assumption was a reward for her saintly life, this feast reminds us that we, too, must be pure and holy in body and soul, since our bodies will be glorified on the day of our resurrection.  St. Paul tells us that our bodies are the temples of God because the Holy Spirit dwells within us.  He also reminds us that our bodies are members (parts) of the Body of Christ.

#3: This feast also gives us the message of total liberation.  Jesus tells us in John 8: 34 that every one who sins is a slave of sin, and St. Paul reminds us (Gal. 5: 1), that, since Christ has set us free, we should be slaves of sin no more.  Thus, the Assumption encourages us to work with God to be liberated from the bondage of evil: from impure, unjust and uncharitable thoughts and habits, and from the bonds of jealousy, envy and hatred.

#4: Finally, it is always an inspiring thought in our moments of temptation and despair to remember that we have a powerful heavenly Mother, constantly interceding for us before her son, Jesus, in heaven. The feast of Mary’s Assumption challenges us to imitate her self-sacrificing love, her indestructible faith and her perfect obedience.

Therefore, on this feast day of our heavenly Mother, let us offer ourselves on the altar and pray for her special care and loving protection in helping us lead a purer and holier life.