THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY INTO HEAVEN
(A biblical reflection on the Solemnity of THE ASSUMPTION OF THE VIRGIN MARY – Sunday, 14 August 2016)
Gospel Reading: Luke 1:39-56
First Reading: Revelation 11:19;12:1-6,10; Psalms: Psalm 45:10-12,16; Second Reading: 1Corinthians 15:20-26
The Scripture Text
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has regarded the low estate of His hand maiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm, He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent empty away. He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.”
And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home. (Luke 1:39-56 RSV)
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven is a belief deeply ingrained in the Catholic consciousness, and made a defined dogma of the Church by Pope Pius XII in 1950. This doctrine of the Assumption of Mary is one of the greatest obstacles for Protestant Christians. Sometimes, in the face of complaints that this doctrine is not in the Bible, Catholics will agree, but then point out that it comes from tradition, rather than scripture.
This response, while understandable, fails to catch something significant about this belief: It is that the conviction of its truth arose among praying people, especially the monks and nuns, who gave the most time to meditating on scripture. It may be more accurate and helpful to approach the Assumption of Mary by seeing it as scripturally based, but in a different way from those things for which we can point to a particular text as proof.
The Assumption of Mary is consistent with a wide range of biblical data. She is the woman at total enmity with the serpent (Genesis 3:15). And again, some holy men of the Old Testament were assumed bodily into heaven: Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah (2Kings 2:11-12). Mary is compared with the ark of the covenant; she is the one in whom the Son of God dwelt and took flesh. She embodies the daughter of Zion, who personifies Israel, the one who reverses the curse of Eve by believing the heavenly messenger.
Mary’s Assumption must be seen from the eternal perspective as part of God’s plan for her to be the mother of His divine Son. Mary’s “yes” to the angel Gabriel was uttered in view of the final glory of heaven. This final destiny beside the glorified Jesus is the full fruit of Elisabeth’s words: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Luke 1:45).
This heavenly perspective must be applied to the passage from Revelation. Surely, it is no coincidence that the vision of the woman clothed with the sun and wearing a crown of twelve stars follows the opening of God’s temple in heaven and a sight of the ark of God’s covenant (Revelation 11:19). In this vision, both Israel and Mary are represented; it is from Israel, in particular from Mary, that the Messiah-child is born.
On this feast, let us raise our hearts and minds to heaven to contemplate the glorious plan of God and its fulfilment in Mary, the first Christian.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, You crowned the Blessed Virgin Mary on the day of her Assumption with a glory beyond compare. You had looked on her lowliness and had made her the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Only-begotten Son. Grant that, by her prayers, we may be saved by the mystery of Your redemption, and share with her in the glory of eternal life. We make our prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Jakarta, 12 August 2016
A Christian Pilgrim