Union Perfected: The Assumption of Mary

Source: District of Asia

“O Immaculate Virgin. Mother of God and mother of men: we believe with all the fervor of our faith in your triumphal Assumption both in body and soul into Heaven, where you are acclaimed as Queen by all the choirs of Angels, and all the legions of the Saints.”

These words, written by our Holy Father for the occasion of the definition of Our Lady's Assumption, are a sign that the work of many generations is completed, the prayer of uncounted souls answered, the most eager desire of God's Church fulfilled. Now at last the discussions are over, the investigations ended. Now at last faith has its hour: for now, faith and love together, come to rest in explicit embrace of God's revealed truth. All else is done: all that remains is for faith, enlightened by divine wisdom and understanding, to penetrate and taste something of the glory of this divine truth of Mary's Assumption into heaven.

To know something of the grandeur, something of the mystery of the holy Virgin's Assumption we must contemplate what that Assumption is in Mary, what it means in the mystery of her union with her God.

In Mary's loving union with her God we can distinguish three phases, three moments, so to say: and in each her love has a distinctive character, renders to God a unique service. To each of these corresponds some special aspect of the Assumption: and always each aspect is Christ's boundless return of love to Mary for what she had rendered to Him. The three phases of Mary's union with the Saviour, and service to Him, are: first, the moment of the Incarnation: second, the prolonged moment of their intimate union in the family life at Nazareth: and third, the tragic moment of Mary's eager union with the saving Passion of her Son.

At the moment of the Incarnation, at that moment when to Gabriel and to God the holy Virgin uttered her glorious answer “Be it done unto me according to thy word” the living Word of the Eternal Father entered into the womb of the most chaste Virgin. At that instant the Son of God became, as it were, clothed with human nature, clothed with the very flesh of the Virgin. She alone was privileged to give to God's own Son a body-a body of the very substance of her own sinless body. That body of His was fashioned, even in appearance, no doubt, after the likeness of her own. She alone was to Him a human parent, so surely it is credible that He resembled her.

See then how perfectly Our Lady's Assumption is Christ's extravagant return to Mary of her love of that moment. She had given to Him a body, she had co-operated in clothing Him with human nature. By the Assumption Christ returns to her, glorified now a thousandfold, what she had given Him. His Body had come forth from hers, had been like unto hers; now through His power her body returns to her soul, her body made now after the likeness of His glorified Body. He had been like her physically: in return He makes her like Him beatifically. As by the Incarnation the Son had been like the Mother, so now by her Assumption, the Mother is like unto the Son. He, as to His Body, was of the Virgin; now she, as to the glory of her body, is of Him: for in her Assumption all proceeds from Christ, all is modelled on Christ. At the Incarnation she became the living tabernacle of God; now by the Assumption she is His perfect Temple, His everlasting dwelling-place.

Mary's love of Christ, her oneness with Him does not end at the Incarnation; it merely begins there. Each successive day, at each passing hour, that union was intensified, deepened, as Mary gave herself ever more completely to the service of her divine Son. In those quiet years of Nazareth, an intimacy, a community of mind and heart and will flourished between them-a common life of ineffable perfection. Mary's every plan, every action was in the service of Christ, her God: her heart and all her being centered there in Him so that His will became, as it were, her will, His mind and life, her mind, her whole life.

What of Mary's Assumption into heaven-does it not imply between Christ and Mary a new common life of such love and intimacy that that of Nazareth becomes by comparison, a mere foreshadowing? The common life they now share is not merely human: it is a common beatific life, derived even into their bodies. At this moment, in the case of each of them, each glance, each motion, each bodily action is directly and totally God-centered -- an explicit act of love of God. Between them there flowers now the uniquely perfect human community: a oneness, in the love of God, a oneness of mind and heart, of soul and bodily activity that is ultimate, complete. This is the return from Christ for Mary's single-hearted devotion to Him. In return for that there flows to her now, from Christ, a perfection of life and light and love which founds this community of blessedness. The Assumption is but the special working out, in Mary, of Christ's promise “Where I am there also shall my minister be.” Mary had ministered to His as no other ever could: therefore His return of love reached out to take her to Himself before the time set for common men.

Finally, in the mystery of the Virgin's oneness with the Lord, that oneness which is eternally perfected in the Assumption, we must look to her on Calvary. There she rendered to Christ a love, a giving of herself, that is beyond description. He had been lashed with whips, pierced with nails, suspended from the Cross: “there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother.” She, too, had been lashed-lashed with the whips of sorrow. She, too, was pierced-pierced with the sword foretold in the words of Simeon. With her broken heart she concurred eagerly in her Son's supreme sacrifice. In the hour in which He was the Man of Sorrow she was par excellence the Sorrowful Mother.

Christ's agony was His victory: by it He merited His exaltation. As Our Lady was associate of the one, so also of the other. Should not she who had partaken of His hour of darkness partake also of His eternity of light? The eyes that looked upon the stained, distorted face of Christ upon His Cross look now forever upon the beauty of His glorious countenance. The heart that once beat fast in anguish beats now in ecstasy of everlasting joy. As the Virgin Mother of Sorrows had been faithful unto Christ in agony-so the zealous, overpowering love of that same Christ has reached out to catch up into His exaltation even her body. From Him there had once descended upon her the silent mantle of sorrow: now in return she is forever more the “woman clothed with the sun.” Forever more she is vested in the light and warmth of that “Sun of Justice” who is her own Divine Son: she, the very throne of God, is clothed with something of the glory that He had before the world was.”

The hour of the Holy Virgin's Assumption is the hour of her glorification: it is the hour of Christ's return of love. But the glory of the Mother of Christ, the glory of this citadel of God, is not for her alone. The Assumption is proof of God's love for her, yes; but proof, too, of His love for us. In her we triumph; her glory is the cause of our joy. By the unutterable goodness of God she is Mother of Christ-but she is also Mother of Men. As any true mother would, she seeks to share with us, her children, the wealth heaped up for her by God's lavish love. Mary's heart burns at this moment to make each of us a sharer in her glory, a companion in her love of God. She did not bear Christ for herself alone, but for us also: she did not suffer with Him for herself, but for us: neither does she triumph alone. Her triumph is ours, for in God's everlasting plan she is inseparable from all who are destined to be sons of God in glory. This Assumption, this effect of God's merciful love which is, in the Holy Virgin, accomplished, is in us by promise.

As our eyes look up to that vision of the “woman clothed with the sun” our hearts beat with vibrant hope-hope that what God has wrought in one of our race, and she our Mother-He shall achieve even in us.

It would be impossible to indicate here the full import on our lives of the divinely revealed truth of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin. But this much we must see. By the solemn definition of the Assumption, faith-enlightened, warmed, revivified by this ray of Divine truth-must grow strong. Hope, reassured, enlivened by this vision of accomplishment must be rekindled, must reach out, eagerly feeding upon this proof of God's benevolent omnipotence. Most of all love, love of God's goodness so manifest in Mary, and in us, sings out in ecstasy of thanks and worship: and then grows silent, like Mary, in love's long gaze of contemplation.

Especially for us who live at this hour of history must this dogmatic definition be fruitful. It is no accident, in the providence of God, that this definition has been delayed until this day: it is no accident that it comes at this moment. Our need of this assurance, our need of Mary Assumed, could hardly be greater than it is. Our disintegrating culture is in opposition to almost all the implications of Mary's bodily Assumption. For our age is characterized by two marks especially: cruelty and carnality. We, so close to our own times, can hardly measure their barbarity: none the less, the last thirty-five years of our history have encompassed more of brutality and of flagrant sensuality than untold centuries of preceding Christian history. One indication is the situation of God's Church today. Never in all her long history, not even in the days of Roman persecution, has the Church been tortured as at this hour.

We, we too, are in danger of infection from our own environment. So God has decreed for our hour this solemn definition, that by it our hearts might be raised up from the sensual shambles of our earth to that vision of true nobility. Mind and heart are warmed, encouraged by the reality and the closeness of such true human glory. The virtues which the Church of God most needs in this day of sorrow, are bravery against the barbarity of the ever-encroaching enemy who has already torn whole peoples from the Church; and temperance against the subtle appeal of sensuality. Look now to the “woman clothed with the sun.” Her very body is a sanctuary of these virtues-for are they not bodily virtues, rooted in bodily appetites? Are not these virtues, then, glorified in her Assumed body? At this hour Mary pleads before Christ that we may share in Christian strength and Christian temperance; pleads that in us individually the Church of God may find those athletes of Christ, those champions of the Faith which the Church has nurtured us to be. Mary's bodily Assumption is more than an inspiration, more than encouragement: it is an instrument in our sanctification, an instrument in the fulfilling of our vocation.