Throughout the ages there have been many assumptions made about the dogma of Mary’s assumption into heaven; including why do Catholics put so much emphasis on Mary when Jesus should be the focus? Or, my personal favorite, we assume that Mary is bodily in heaven, but we don’t know for sure so that’s why we call it the “assumption.”
What is the Feast of the Assumption exactly and why is it so important to Pope St. John Paul II’s teachings of Theology of the Body? Well, let’s start with the first question. Simply put, the assumption is the dogma of the Church that declares that Mary was assumed or taken up into heaven, body and soul. This, of course, was not by her own power, but rather by the power of God; otherwise, she would have ascended into heaven like Jesus did. Pope Pius XII officially declared this teaching in Munificentissimus Deus in 1950. So, to clear up some of the common misconceptions, we put an emphasis on Mary because she is the model for how we are to live now, and more importantly, for our future state in heaven that is described as “eschatological man.” The dogma of the assumption isn’t an assumption that the Church makes, but instead she declares it definitively as necessary belief for all Catholics; because it is paramount to our understanding of theology, specifically divinization.
Divinization is one of the core beliefs in our faith whereby we participate fully and perfectly in the divinity of God himself when we reach heaven. Pope St. John Paul II explains, “Man’s state in the ‘other world’ will not only be a state of perfect spiritualization, but also of the fundamental ‘divinization’ of his humanity… Participation in the divine nature, participation in the inner life of God himself, penetration and permeation of what is essentially human by what is essentially divine, will then reach its peak, so that the life of the human spirit will reach a fullness that was absolutely inaccessible to it before. (Man and Woman He Created Them 67:3)
If that makes your brain hurt a little, it should. It is incomprehensible to us living in a fallen world and grappling with concupiscence that God could take such creatures and allow us to fully and completely participate in his very divine life. That should blow our minds, and if it doesn’t, we need to check our pulse.
So how does Mary fit into all of this? We can look to Mary as the icon of the Church. We look at her and see an example of how we are to live and where we are all going. Think about it. Mary was the very first disciple; she walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus, cared for Him as a baby, and wept for Him at the cross. She is not only a prime example of living God’s will perfectly, but Mary currently experiences in heaven that which we all long for. John Paul II made this clear when he observed, “Looking at the mystery of the Blessed Virgin’s assumption, we can understand the plan of divine providence for humanity. After Christ, the incarnate Word, Mary is the first human being to achieve the eschatological ideal, anticipating the fullness of happiness promised to the elect through the resurrection of the body.” (Theotokos: Woman, Mother, Disciple Pg. 208)
In other words, Mary lived how we should live, and she presently lives the way we yearn to live. She is our immaculate example here on earth, and a foretaste into our glorious future. Of course, Mary accomplishes all of this through the grace she was perpetually open to receive from the cross. If your mind isn’t blown or hurting yet, buckle in. God works outside of time as we know it, this is how Christ could see every sin, past, present, and future, while He hung on the cross. Correspondingly, God is eternally present to all. We can pray today, and the effect of that prayer can be applied to events that have already happened. My grandma died several years ago, and I still pray for her today because those prayers can be applied retroactively to my grandma while she was still alive; they may have helped her make moral decisions or live in the grace of God. See what I mean? Mind blown!!!
This is how Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin because the grace of the cross was applied to her from the moment of conception. It’s also the reason we esteem her so highly in our teaching and devotion. Have you doubted the truth of the assumption of Mary? Do you know someone who has? Is Mary a guiding light in your life who will lead you to her Son? If you struggle with it, just remember, God is the one who decided to assume her into heaven. If it makes sense to him, it makes sense to me. As this important feast day approaches on August 15th, let’s ask our Blessed Mother to guide us and lead us ever closer into her Son’s sacred heart, that beats for love of us and longs for the day we can participate fully in His divine life.
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