'God, the incomprehensible, drew near to us and united himself closely, perfectly and even personally to our humanity through Mary without losing anything of his majesty. So it is also through Mary that we must draw near to God and unite ourselves to him perfectly, intimately and without fear of being rejected’.
St. Louis Marie de Montfort
In these days when a rocket was launched to explore evidence of life on Mars, we are becoming more aware of the immensity of the universe that we are part of and how relatively small is our home, planet earth. Every one of the stars is a sun and some suns are so big that they could contain the sun that we see, the earth and the distance between them. At a conservative estimate there are 100 million galaxies! Science reminds us that, amazingly, to our knowledge, planet earth is the only place in the universe where life exists. Furthermore, out of all the millions of species of life that exist on the earth, the human race enjoys a special dignity. For us as believers this is because the Creator of the universe freely choose, out of love, to become one of us. Looking on the incarnation in this light brings us to a new and deeper awareness of our dignity and our calling. It ‘assumes’ us to a new level of dignity, of knowing who we are, where we have come from and where we are going.
The doctrine of the Assumption of Mary was defined by Pope Pius XII in 1950. Like the Immaculate Conception, the dogma of faith was believed in long before it was made official by the Church. It came at a time of strong devotion to Mary in the Church as a whole, four years before the Marian year of 1954. It also came shortly after the end of the Second World War where there had been such wastage of human life. The dogma of the assumption put before the Church and the world once again, the dignity of every human person as made in the image and likeness of God. It also spoke afresh about the destiny to which humanity is called.
Similar to the Immaculate Conception, the assumption is not about the glorification of Mary alone but of the whole people of God. It speaks to us of our role in the ongoing drama of how God saves His people and the change which Jesus Christ effects for the human race.
The words ‘ascended into heaven’ can conjure up misleading images as to what happened Mary after she died. Her death, like that of all Christians, was not a destruction or an annihilation of who she was but rather a consummation or completion of her whole being. The heaven to which Mary was assumed was not a region in the skies but rather a new level of existence before God. Therefore we can say that Mary’s assumption is about a transformation of the human condition from its familiar earthly state to a new mode of being in which it enjoys an immediate relation to God. The closeness of Jesus and Mary is being asserted here for their companionship on earth could not be broken, even by death. Mary’s assumption is the fulfilment of the Lord’s promise not only to Mary but to all of us, that ‘Where I am, there you will be also’ (John 14:3).
Just as Mary is inseparable from the Lord, so is His Church. The assumption is a sign of the Lord’s promise that he would glorify his disciples and lead us to the destiny to which he called us, ‘The glory that you have given me, I have given them’ (John 17:22). In Mary we see one who has already reached that goal where we hope to follow. The dogma of the Assumption is one of the most hopeful and encouraging articles of the Church’s belief. It has many implications. It reminds us that we are God’s Church and that we cannot utterly depart from Him unless we really want to. It is a glimpse of the final glory that is ours as promised by Christ. It is not to be understood as a once off historical event but as a continuous process that is going on at this very moment. Whenever in the Church here on earth there is a prayer offered, an act of charity, a hand extended, there is assumption, there is human life being lifted up by God to God.
‘Almighty Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
you have revealed the beauty of your power by exalting the lowly virgin of Nazareth and making her the mother of Our Saviour. May the prayers of this woman clothed with the sun bring Jesus to the waiting world and fill the void of incompletion with the presence of her child who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.’
From Mass of the Assumption; Opening Prayer.