THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
St. Paul the great teacher of our faith avers that “Now if Christ is being preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty (1Cor. 15:12-14). The Blessed Virgin Mary as the first disciple of Christ, believed the works and promises of her Son whole-heartedly and she is enjoying the fruit of her labour today in heaven, hence her experience of the resurrection of Christ by her Assumption, body and soul into heaven. The Catholic Church teaches that after the earthly life of Mary, her body never experienced corruption, (“You will not let your holy one to see corruption Acts 13:35). Therefore, she was assumed body and soul into heaven, which every right thinking and professing Christian is earnestly yearning for. Unfortunately, many do not understand this teaching and sees it as an imposition on our belief system. What are the biblical evidences and justification for this teaching of the Church?
Non-Catholics and some uninformed Catholics usually asked where the Assumption of Mary in the Bible is. Without making effort to discover the teaching in the Bible they just conclude that it is a Dogma. That is dogma in a derogatory sense. Wait a moment! What is a dogma? A Dogma is an affirmative truth of our faith that is taught by the Church for our salvation and edification. Note that a dogma is not just defined and proclaimed in a vacuum; rather it is formulated to explain the Bible – Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa. It follows that every dogma of the Church is geared towards the unveiling of a truth that is “pregnant” in the word of God. Thanks to the Church for taking the pains to expose to us the truth of the incorruptibility of our bodies as exemplified by Jesus through His resurrection and the Blessed Virgin via her Assumption.
THE ASSUMPTION OF MARY IN THE BIBLE
First, it is important to note that the term Assumption just like those of Trinity, Incarnation, and Purgatory is not explicitly found in the Bible. Interestingly, the term Bible is not in the Bible but we believe the contents of the Bible as the Word of God! What remains is that the aforementioned terms are icons of truths that are embedded in the Word of God. The Assumption being one of such icons has biblical evidences. The term is from the Latin “assumptio” which means “taken up.” The first thing to note is that the human body is sacred because it is created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:27). More so, the body is good and the creator has fashioned it to serve Him and be with Him forever in the next. Little wonder the psalmist says: “Because thou wilt not leave my soul in neither hell; nor wilt thou give thy holy one to see corruption” [Ps. 15(16):10].
Now in the Old Testament, there was the Ark of the Covenant and it contained the Old Covenant. That Ark, it is important to note was made up of incorruptible wood called setim – an incorruptible acacia (Ex. 25:10). In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ instituted a New Covenant to replace the old. In this case, Jesus Himself is the New Covenant that is represented in His blood that was poured out on the Cross of Calvary. The New Covenant also has an Ark. The Ark is the Blessed Virgin Mary. Accordingly, we invoke her in the Litany of Loreto as Ark of the New Covenant. It was in the womb of the Virgin Mary that Jesus Christ took flesh and blood. He was born, nursed and nurtured by the same Blessed Virgin Mary and He increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and with people (Luke 2:52). The Old Testament prefigures the New Testament. Brother Peter Dimond therefore captures it beautifully: “if the Ark of the Old Covenant is incorruptible, how much more must the Ark of the New Covenant be incorruptible. God specifically prescribed incorruptible wood for the construction of the Ark because it served as a prefigurement of the incorruptible body and soul of the new Ark, the Blessed Virgin.”
The question that readily comes to mind is, what is it that brought Jesus to the world? The Mission statement of Jesus is captured in Luke 4:18-19 where He says he has come to release the captive. We were captives in the dungeon of Satan until Christ came and freed us. Thus, can Christ wallow in sin to free us from sin? That is not possible. Where would Christ have the moral courage to rebuke Satan and sin, if He is not freed from sin? Hence, Hebrew 4:15 says that Christ is like us but sin. So, in order to dissociate Christ from sin and its effect, Mary was conceived immaculately. Moreover, the truth of Mary’s sinlessness was proven by the Angel Gabriel when he saluted Mary as “Hail, Full of Grace” (Luke 1:28). You cannot be with any iota of sin and still be revered as “Full of Grace.” It is not possible! God is the creator and originator of all plans and laws and He cannot go against such. The fact is that we are what our parents are. “Look, I was guilty of sin from birth, a sinner the moment my mother conceived me.” (Ps. 51:5). Since Jesus took flesh and blood from Mary, if Mary were contaminated by sin, it may have affected Jesus. Moreover, the clever Devil would have used that against Him. Remember that the Devil tempted Jesus, surely that would have been a weapon to use and accuse Jesus. God forbid! This being the case, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin flows from the preservation of her body and soul from all original and actual sins. Our flesh corrupts/decays after death because of sin. Mary the Ark of the New Covenant did not have original sin let alone actual sin, as a result, she was freed from the consequences of sins and her body did not experience corruption but was glorified by the Lord as she appears in heaven with a crown of twelve stars – Rev. 12:1.
Furthermore, the Assumption of Mary does not contradict biblical realities. In 2kings 2:1, 11, there is the miraculous exit of Elijah from the earth. The same is true of Enoch in Gen. 5:24 and Heb. 11:5. In addition, St. Paul clearly states in 1Cor. 15 that at the end of time, all men whether good or bad shall miraculously reunite for final and general judgement. Mary is the archetype of the Church’s faith and by that; she re-echoes the most important doctrines of the faith. One of those doctrines is the incorruptibility of the body and the immortality of the soul. Finally, the apparitions of Mary proves her Assumption into heaven. She is always seen in her bodily form with dresses that reflects her majesty.
To God be the glory, in the Papal Encyclical Munificentissimus Deus, 1 November, 1950, Pope Pius XII defined ex cathedral the Assumption of Mary in the following statement: “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.” Fr. Timothy Barga says, just as the glorious resurrection of Christ was an essential part and the ultimate trophy of this victory over Satan, so the struggle that the Blessed Virgin had shared in common with her Son was to be concluded with the ‘glorification’ of her virginal body. As the Apostle says, ‘When this mortal nature shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, death is swallowed up in victory’ (1 Cor. 15,54; Is. 25:8).
The lesson we have learned from the account of Mary’s Assumption is that the human body is sacred and the Lord rewards those who respect their bodies. No wonder we have incorruptible Saints in the Church for example: SS. Rita of Casia, Catherine Laboure, the incorruptible tongue of Anthony of Padua, just to mention a few. In our Parish, Mary is our Mother and Queen, may we humbly venerate her by our devotion and our imitation of her virtues so that we too may experience the resurrection of the Lord and be found worthy to enjoy eternal bliss in heaven. Queen Assumed into Heaven – Pray for us.