Feast of the Assumption of Mary
by Catherine Fournier
The Assumption into Heaven of the Blessed Virgin
Feast Day: August 15
When Jesus died on the cross, he gave his mother to his apostle John. That means that he wanted Mary to treat John as her son, and John to treat Mary as his mother and take care of her. Mary moved into John's home, where he said Mass each day. So Mary was close to her Son in the Blessed Sacrament, even though He had ascended into Heaven.
Mary's love for God and Jesus grew even stronger than it had been when Jesus had been present on earth. She grew more holy every day. People came to visit her, she was kind and patient with everyone. Saint Luke (who wrote the Gospel of Saint Luke) painted a picture of her during this time. The portrait of 'Our Lady of Perpetual Help" which was painted centuries later, used Saint Luke's portrait as a model of what Mary looked like.
Finally when she was very old, it was time for Mary to die. She had enough time to say goodbye to all the apostles before she died. The grieving apostles took her body to a tomb near the one that Jesus was laid in. They covered her with a white shroud and laid her to rest in the tomb.
But Mary's body didn't stay there. Jesus came to her and took her body and soul into heaven to be with Him. Mary was the Immaculate Conception - the only person except Jesus who had been born without the stain of Original Sin,the disobedience of Adam and Eve. God and Jesus would not let the body of the Mother of God decay. This was her reward for her love of God and her years of faithful prayers and suffering.
This wonderful summer feast is one of the oldest in Church history. The Feast of the Assumption, honouring Our Lady, was first celbrated in Palestine in the year 529. It was such a strong tradition in the Church, needing no confirmation, that it wasn't until November 1 1950 that Pope Pius XII declared the Assumption of Mary to be a dogma of the faith.
An ancient and beautiful legend about the Assumption of
Mary tells the story this way:
When Our Lady felt her time on earth coming to an end, she sent word to all the Apostles. They were out preaching the Good News of her Son 'to all the corners of the world' as Jesus had commanded them. When they received her message, of course they paid their respects to their new congregations and disciples and left so as to hurry to her side. After long sea voyages and treks over land, they arrived just in time to say goodbye and pray with her one last time. Then she died.
Only Thomas was late. He had been delayed by some way or another, and had been travelling day and night since to try and catch up. But he was too late. When he finally arrived, hot and travel stained, he was grief-stricken to learn that she had been laid to rest in a tomb. He wept bitterly, and begged the Apostle's permission to open the tomb so that he could see her beloved face. At first, the other Apostles were reluctant. After all, she had been dead for three days, and it was a hot country. Finally they yielded to his tears and rolled away the stone.
To their amazement, the tomb was filled with flowers all giving off a sweet fragrance. They felt happier and healthier just smelling the beautiful scent that came wafting out of that tomb. Where they had placed her body was only her shroud, filled with more flowers. Her body had been carried up to heaven by her Son and the angels, to join her soul.
Now, it must be remembered that after the great Fall - when Adam and Eve disobedied God and ate of the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and were cast out of the Garden - all the flowers lost their scent, or perhaps we lost the ability to smell them. The herbs lost their healing powers too, and were only good for flavouring our food. Not that that's not a good thing mind you, but to be able to heal sickness and mend broken bones, well that's something more important that a nicely flavoured stew.
It's only right that on the day of her Assumption, Our Blessed Lady's last gift to us should be the restoring of the scent of flowers and the healing power of herbs.
Parents: See Genesis 2:1 to Genesis 3:24 for the Bible story of the Fall, and the importance of the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the story.
On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius Xii defined as a truth revealed by God that the Immaculate Mother of God, Mary ever Virgin, was taken up to heaven body and soul when the course of her life on earth was finished. This is the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.
"It is surely fitting, it was becoming, that she should be taken up into heaven and not lie in the grave until Christ's second coming, who had passed a life of sanctity and of miracles such as hers....Who can conceive that God should so repay the debt, which He considered to owe to His Mother for the elements of His human Body, as to allow the flesh and blood from which it was teken to molder in the grave? Or who can conceive that that virginal frame which never sinned, was to undergo the death of a sinner?..."
"She died, then, because even Our Lord and Saviour died. But though she died as well as others, she died not as others die; for, through the merits of her son, by whom she was what she was, by the grace of Christ which in her had anticipated sin, which had filled her with light, which had purified her flesh from all defilemnt, she had been saved from disease and malady, and all that weakens and decays the bodily frame." (Cardinal Newman)
Jesus and Mary, then, both passed through the gate of death into Heaven. In her own way, Mary was crucified with Jesus, his torment 'pierced her heart like a sword', his death made her 'Our Lady of Sorrows'. She patiently submitted to the will of God in all things beginning with the Annunciation and ending with remaining on earth so long after the Ascension of Christ.
From her place in heaven, she still watches over us, as she watched over Jesus as he grew. As our mother, she is always our refuge, our comfort and our hope. Through the communion of Saints, of which she is the Queen, we share the joy and glory of her Assumption.
Almighty, ever-living God, You raised to eternal glory the body and soul of the immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of Your Son. Grant that our minds may always be directed heavenward and that we may deserve to share in her glory. Amen.
Two sources for further reading:
- Apologetics about the Assumption of Mary from Catholic Biblical Apologetics
- DISCOURSE VII OF THE ASSUMPTION OF MARY Saint Alphonsus de Liguori
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