Assumption of Our Lady
A number of years ago I was visiting friends in Northern Ireland and they took me to an amazing place called the Odyssey which is a massive complex of cinemas, restaurants, a bowling alley, an ice rink and other attractions found under one roof. I remember however that what caught my eye was a large neon sign that aroused my curiosity. It was a large W5. It was a science museum and I quickly found out that W5 stands for 5 of the words, beginning with ‘W’ that can start a question –Who? What, When, Where? Why? ( There are other W words such as which, whenever, whatever, whoever, wherever!) I think it is a good way to approach this dogma and this event.
That is an easy one! This applies only to Our Lady, the Virgin Mary, the historical person of the ordinary maiden of Nazareth in Israel.
The definition, in the words of Pope Pius XII, goes as follows.
‘By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.’What we are celebrating therefore is a singular event – the Assumption body and soul of a human creature, a privilege of grace, into the presence of Almighty God. It is a staggering event and privilege that a lowly creature should enjoy the singular favour of sharing in the Vision of the Creator of all, the beginning and the end of all. This privilege will not be shared by the members of the Church, the People of God and the Body of Christ until the general resurrection of the dead. Where she has gone, we hope to follow. It is our common destiny. Today’s feast is therefore about the ‘happy ever after’ of Mary whose story began ‘once upon a time’ in Nazareth in the Gospel at today’s Mass.
This is a good quiz question. The answer is Ephesus (modern day Efes) in Turkey. What is interesting is that this was then a stronghold of worship of the female goddess Artemis (or Diana) in that part of the world, and many artefacts of that pagan worship still remain. It was here in the heart of paganism that Mary settled with St John the Apostle. As Christianity gradually grew and paganism declined, worship of the mythical goddess Diana was replaced by veneration of Mary. And it was at Ephesus in 431 AD that Mary was declared Theotokos, Mother of God’. Pope John Paul visited Turkey in 1979 and Pope Benedict has recently visited Ephesus.
This is also an interesting point, and while I am open to correction on this I think that the timing of the Declaration of the Assumption as dogma in 1950 was meant to coincide with the anniversary of the date of the event of the Assumption in 50 AD. It was thought that Our Lady lived to be 63 years of age, and Christians would recite 63 ‘Hail Mary’s in honour of each year she lived. So the early rosary had 63 beads. Somehow in the evolution of the prayer as we have it today, the 150 Hail Marys match the Psalms, yet the 3 Hail Mary’s at the beginning of the Rosary remained for some reason.
This brings us back to 50 AD. If Our Lady was a teenage girl when she conceived Jesus she was 14(?) and was ended her earthly life at 63 in 50 AD.
The answer is love. Mary was preserved free from Original Sin, was not guilty of personal sin, lived a virtuous life, and only ‘the pure in heart can see God’, according to the Beatitude on the Sermon on the Mount. It is a logical extension and consequence of Mary’s pure love and indeed of God’s love for her that she enjoys the special privilege. But her role as intercessor reminds us of her humanity and is also a wonderful aspect of the genius of God’s loving plan in appealing to each of us to respond to His call to Himself via the universal appeal of motherhood, that we more confidently and willingly approach Him through her intercession.
St Fulgentius puts it this way:
'The Mother of God is "the Ladder of Heaven". God came down to earth by this Ladder,that men might by Mary climb up to Him in heaven.'