Mary's Assumption into heaven gives us hope Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010 -- 12:00 AM

Seeing with Jesus' Eyes by Fr. Donald Lange

On August 15, we celebrate the feast of the Assumption of Mary, body and soul, into heaven. Mary's Assumption is God's response to her committed discipleship, expressed through her motherhood of Jesus, and other graced ways that she did God's will.

The feast of the Assumption is the oldest Marian feast in the liturgy. On November 1, 1950, in Munificentissimus Deus, Pope Pius XII declared Mary's Assumption "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."

As a dogma, the Assumption is required belief for all Catholics. The feast is a holy day of obligation.

Petitions guided pope

The faith of Catholics helped to guide the pope to proclaim Mary's Assumption as dogma. In the 100 years from 1849 to 1950, Rome received petitions for the proclamation of the Assumption as a dogma from more than 8,000,000 lay persons and 84,636 priests and religious, including cardinals, patriarchs, bishops, and archbishops.

To explore whether these requests represented the faith of Catholics, in 1946 Pope Pius XII issued an encyclical Deiparae Virginis, asking the bishops to consult with clergy and laity as to whether the teaching of the Assumption ought to be defined as dogma. (This was not voting.) Basically Pope Pius XII asked Catholics, "Is this what you and your community believe as Catholics?" Ninety-nine percent responded, "Yes!"

This consultation resulted in many more petitions from Catholics, begging and urging the Apostolic See that Mary's Assumption be solemnly defined as a dogma. In Munificentissimus Deus, Pope Pius XII stated that the faith of so many Catholics in the Assumption shows that "the dogma of the Virgin Mary's Assumption into heaven is contained in the deposit of Christian faith entrusted to the Church."

Decreased respect for human life

When Pope Pius XII proclaimed Mary's Assumption as dogma, there was a decreased respect for life and the human person in the world. According to Fr. Brian Joyce, the first 50 years of the 20th century included the slaughter and genocide of the Armenian people, the loss of 10 million lives in World War I, 40 million lives in the Russian Revolution, six million Jewish lives in the Holocaust, 50 million lives in World War II, and the invention and use of a new weapon of massive destruction called the atomic bomb. During this time there was also the spread of atheistic error, immorality, and amorality.

Carl Jung, world famous psychologist, surprised many when he supported the proclamation of the Assumption. He thought that it came at a time when science and technology, combined with rationalistic and materialistic views of the world, threatened to annihilate humanity's spiritual heritage.

For Jung, the Assumption was the opposite of materialism. Pope Pius XII intended that the celebration of the Assumption of Mary make clear the sacredness and the high heavenly destiny of every human person which the 20th century challenged.

Body is destined for resurrection

Mary's body was a tabernacle, housing divinity in her womb. Her Assumption reminds us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, destined for resurrection. Mary's Assumption inspires us to respect our bodies and life across the board from womb to tomb. Through grace, we strive to love and respect our family, friends, and others, even our enemies.

Mary's Assumption is God's response to her committed discipleship. She is Christ's first and greatest disciple, who followed him to the cross. She stood there when nearly everyone else abandoned Jesus.

Like Mary under the cross, being a faithful disciple can be lonely and difficult. From Mary, we learn to listen, ponder, and live the word of God as she did. Imitating Mary gives us hope of enjoying God face to face in the Beatific Vision with her, the angels, and saints forever.

Becoming like Mary

We would be like Mary if it were not for original sin. To become more like her, we need to repent, receive the sacrament of Reconciliation, and respond to God's grace. Mary gives us hope of what God can do in our own lives if we but trust, believe, and try to do God's will as she did.

Let us ask Mary's intercession to help us to be faithful disciples who ultimately enjoy with her and others the Beatific Vision in heaven forever and ever. Amen.

Fr. Donald Lange is a pastor emeritus of the Diocese of Madison.