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Motherhood not Memory – The Assumption

Fixed in the middle of August (the 15th) as a Holy Day of Obligation, the Feast of the Assumption was finally declared dogma in the Church by Pope Pius XII on 1 November, 1950 when he declared that "the blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Mother of God, at the close of her earthly career was taken up into heaven, body and soul." Since the early days of the Church (and as with the declaration of all dogma, deriving from the deposit of faith laid down in the times of Christ) this was a truth always revealed.

The Oddi Altarpiece, by Raphael Sanzio, 1502-3 *

At the end of her earthly life, our Lady was raised body and soul into heaven.

The Assumption is our Lady’s crowning glory, and the proof of her active participation in the plan of redemption.

Mary was conceived without original sin. She was full of grace, and her fullness never stopped increasing until she was finally carried body and soul to her heavenly throne.

For a creature so pure, so innocent and so full of grace, there could be no return to dust and to the slime of the earth as is common to the rest of humanity. God would not even wish her body to remain inert and lifeless until the general resurrection of the dead.

Our Lady’s body had never been tainted with the least participation in sin. It had housed a soul that was full of grace. It had been redeemed and made holy in a wondrous manner, in anticipation of our Lord’s great sacrifice.

Mary’s body had participated in all the acts of adoration, praise and thanksgiving that touched the very heart of God. Her heart had loved, her head had bowed in deep humility before her Maker. Her body, with her soul, had conformed to every inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Her body had collaborated with the Holy Spirit in providing flesh, blood and bone to the second Person of the Holy Trinity. Jesus Christ, her divine Son, found in His mother a blood worthy of Him and of the great work He came to accomplish.

Mary’s flesh and blood had fortified God: “Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the paps that gave Thee suck!” In her arms she had cradled her divine Child, and He, in turn, had rested in the sweet sanctuary of her bosom.

Her face and her smile had given joy to the human and sacred heart of her Son. Her gazed had encouraged Him, her physical presence had comforted and strengthened Him, so much so that He would have suffered His passion for her alone, that He might possess this mother who was so worthy of Him.

Mary’s immaculate heart comforted and fortified Her Son’s most Sacred Heart as it bent under the weight of the sins of mankind. Her immaculate heart was pierced by seven sacred swords. By her spiritual but also physical anguish and sorrow, Mary became co-redemptrix of the human race, in union with her Son. Her body was a direct instrument in the salvation of the world.

Mary’s body was in complete harmony with the fullness of grace that sanctified her soul. It could never, therefore, taste corruption and dissolution. God wished her body to share immediately in the glory of heaven. His mother, body and soul, was to be the prize and delight of His angels and saints. For, without Mary’s fiat, the angels would have no queen, and the saints no heavenly home.

There is another reason why God wished to raise our Lady, body and soul, into heaven. God understands that we have need of a real mother, of flesh and blood, both here on earth and in heaven. There would be little consolation for us if we could only pray to our Lady in spirit, whilst her relics remained earthbound. Mary would thus be nothing more than a great saint, the first among many. Pictures and statues would show one who was but who is no more. We would have to wait until the final resurrection of the dead to experience the comforting knowledge of Mary’s smile and embrace.

Had God not raised His mother body and soul into heaven, Mary would merely be a memory, not a mother.

May our blessed and glorious Mother guide, guard and bless us, and lead us all to our own happy and glorious resurrection and assumption.

* From NLM: The Oddi Altarpiece, by Raphael Sanzio, painted in 1502-3, when the artist was only 19 years old; now in the Painting Gallery of the Vatican Museums. Above, the Virgin is crowned by Christ, and surrounded by angels, four of whom are playing musical instruments; below, the Apostles are gathered around Her tomb, with some of them looking upwards and listening to the music. St Thomas is in the middle of the group, with his head tilted back, and has received from the Virgin Her belt; this relic is now, according to tradition, preserved in the cathedral of Prato, Italy. Her tomb is filled with flowers growing out of the stone; Raphael himself appears on the far right as one of the Apostles, wearing black and looking straight out at the viewer.


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