Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary!

     Okay, I can imagine some of you--especially those friends and other readers who are not Catholic--wondering, what on earth do those Catholics mean by the Assumption of Jesus' Mother and why is that a cause for a Feast Day (what Catholics call special days of particular significance set aside for celebration throughout the Church Year)? Not having grown up in the Catholic Church, these Feast Days were a new concept to me when I joined the Church back in 1985.
     Many of these days are also referred to as Holy Days of Obligation for Catholics, which, as the title implies, means that faithful practicing Catholics are obligated to attend Mass on these days. While such a title connotes a duty, which many times, is not construed to be a positive thing, I actually look forward to these Days of Obligation and, especially, to those that are also Feast Days! In fact, at last night's Vigil Mass (the Eve if the Feast Day of the Assumption), our Pastor spoke about how those who grew up in my (and older) generations and attended Catholic schools actually had a day off from school during Feast Days in order to devote that time to the proper celebration of the day. He even went so far as to suggest that we, especially families with young children, go out for donuts or ice cream to help regain some of that sense of festivity (a great idea, I thought)! Then, as Catholic families descend en masse upon sweet shops on Feast Days, it will become inevitable that people will wonder just what it is they are celebrating, creating opportunities to share some of the delights of our Faith with others.
     Now, to return to the topic at hand: Just what do we mean by the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary? The word Assumption comes from the word assume, by which we mean to say that she who was and is Mother of God (if you acknowledge Jesus as both Human and Divine) was translated (or assumed) into Heaven, body and soul. From the earliest days of the Church (during the first century and beyond), word spread of Mary's Dormition, that she had "fallen asleep" (the Dormition, from the Latin) and been taken up into Heaven after having "fallen asleep" in the home where she had lived with St. John following Jesus' Death, Resurrectin and Ascension into Heaven. From those initial reports, word was passed on and it was believed by the earliest Christians that Jesus had called His Mother to Himself and, as her eyes closed on this earth, they opened upon her Son and Lord in Heaven, without her body having undergone the process of the decay of death as is natural and usual.
     This certainly seems reasonable if you accept the other claims of Christianity: i.e., that the Christ (Jesus) was born of a virgin, His Mother, Mary, that Jesus is God Incarnate, that Jesus is the Christ, the "Annointed One of God", long-foretold and expected from the Hebrew scriptures (our Old Testament), that He "suffered, died, and was buried", that "He rose again on the third day" and "is seated at the Right Hand of God the Father", Who with the Holy Spirit comprises the Three Persons of the One God (the Holy Trinity), and Who will return again "to judge the living and the dead", as the Creed proclaims.
     So, today as we remember the Assumption of Jesus' Mother into Heaven, we celebrate. We celebrate that she, who is Holy and fully alive in Heaven is there now, interceding along with Jesus, and all "the Holy Ones" (the Saints and Angels) before Almighty God for us who continue to journey here on earth on this, our pilgrimage of life, with its many challenges, temptations, trials, and sorrows while she (and they) also rejoice with us in each victory over them as we seek to be conformed more and more to the image of her Son Who lives in us. We celebrate because we know that she, along with all the Church Triumphant (all who now dwell with God) pray for us, encouraging us and strengthening us by their prayers. We celebrate, too, because we believe that we, also, will one day close our own eyes upon this earth and open them upon Heaven and the unimaginable joy of beholding Jesus, our Lord and Savior, along with His Mother and ours (for He gave her to us, His brothers and sisters, as He spoke while dying on the Holy Cross.
     Last night during Mass as I prayed and reflected upon what this Feast Day of the Assumption portends for us, I felt the Spirit moving me to realize in a way I had never felt so strongly before that, as my own dear biological mother loved, protected, and taught me, praying regularly and fervently for me, while guiding me to love and worship the Lord Jesus, Whom she worshipped and loved, in an even more profound way, my Heavenly Mother, Mary, does also.

Some Scripture References Related to the Above:  Genesis 3: 15; Deuteronomy 31: 26; Exodus 25: 11; Exodus 37: 1; Numbers 14: 43-44;  Isaiah 7: 14; Isaiah 9: 7; Psalm 16: 10; Psalm 68:18; Luke 1: 39-55;  I Corinthians 15: 12-58; Hebrews, Chapter 1; Hebrews  12: 1-3; John 6: 32-40, 47-51; John 19: 26-27; Philippians 2: 5-11; I John ;3: 2; I John 4: 9-21; I John 5: 11; Revelation 12: 1-5.

A Further Note:  In reflecting upon my growing understanding and appreciation for the role of Mary in Salvation history, key to my understanding of her role has been the realization that the Flesh and Blood of her Son, Jesus, came from Mary alone, as His Father was and is God (a Mystery beyond the ability of our finite minds to comprehend). When Jesus bled and died on the Cross for our Salvation, the blood He shed came from His Mother, Mary. I believe that these realizations are key to coming to understand and believe another often misunderstood tenet of Catholicism, the Immaculate Conception of Mary, that is, that she was conceived without the taint of original sin, as all other human beings are, save Adam, Eve, Mary and Jesus. As the Ark of the Covenant, containing the Ten Commandments, (the Words of God), was Holy, so Holy that to touch it was to die!, so, too, Mary was the Holy Vessel in which the Word of God in the Person of Jesus, the Christ, would dwell for nine months. (But, to elaborate further on that topic must be left for another time!)


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