The Feast of the Assumption (August 15) reminds all Catholics of the Blessed Mary’s elevated position in the economy of salvation. Nothing sets apart Catholics more than their reverence for the Mother of Our Lord, the Mother in Holy Mother Church and Queen of all the Saints.
The Blessed Mary in Scripture
Today’s readings in the Liturgical Year highlight Mary Magnificat (See Luke 1:39-66), her praise for the Lord upon recognition by her cousin, St. Elizabeth and St. John the Baptist (in utero), of the extraordinary blessings God chose her to bear into the world, after the Annunciation (Luke 1). We also read in Revelations 11:19; 12:1-6, 10, where a woman clothed with the son, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. The passage begins with Mary’s labor pains, and introduces a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns. That dragon swept away a third of the earth…[and] stood before the woman to devour her child. Mary is both the Christ-bearer, and she confronts the Satan directly.
Mary great “yes” bears Our Lord in human form, and, in so doing, she opens the gates of Salvation for us, which had been shut because of human sin – since the time of Adam and Eve’s Fall. Mary nurtures Christ toward his ministry, with the Wedding of Cana a pivot-point in the Lord’s work among the Israelites. Mary travelled with her Son and Lord all the way to the Cross. At the Cross, Jesus told St. John, Behold, your Mother. This affirms Mary’s role in building Christ’s Church on Earth.
Mary was with the 12 in the Upper Chamber where the Lord appeared repeatedly, and where he sent the Holy Spirit: These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. (Acts 1:14) This is the last time Mary is mentioned in Scripture.
Knowledge of Mary’s Assumption derives from texts associated with the Apocryphal tradition. See the Catholic Encyclopedia on the texts that relate Mary’s Assumption. St. John Damascus, at the Council of Chalcedon, affirmed Mary’s Assumption by public acclimation in 451, although the date of the Assumption was approximately 15 years after Christ’s Resurrection (early 50s): Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven. St. John Damascus’ public proclamation followed established traditions of recognizing Mary’s Assumption, which date to 431 at the third council of Ephesus. Pope Pius XII declared the solemnity of the Feast of the Assumption, and established this on the Liturgical Calendar in 1950.
Mary was taken up, body and soul, into heaven, to receive the fullness of the Resurrection – something we wait for until the end of time. Mary’s unity with Christ, and her share in divine community, makes her the closest advocate to Our Lord among all the saints.
Mary at the Center of Controversy & the Key to Unity among Christians
Mary is often the centrepiece for Protestant critiques of Catholicism. In my conversion, I still had lingering doubts about the Blessed Mother, until the blessings of full communion shed those scales form my eyes. Like earthly mothers, though, she does not give up on us. Mary’s role in winning souls to Christ has taken dramatic form in Marian Apparitions, which continue to this day.
The Orthodox, who call the Blessed Mary the Theotokos (God-bearer), honor the Assumption as the Great Feast of the Dormition (or falling asleep of the Theotokos), with a two week fast in August, leading up to the Feast. The Liturgical calendars between Eastern Orthodox and Western Catholics rarely aligns: How wonderful that on the Feast of the Assumption (Dormition), we are one with our Orthodox brethren.
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.