Yesterday was the feast of the Assumption of Mary. I had the fortune to attend a Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes last evening at which my friend Dan Griffith presided and my daughter Elena was the cantor. So I got a great sermon and the pleasure of hearing Elena sing the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria.
I was interested in Dan’s discussion in his homily of the difference between how the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church speaks about the end of Mary’s life, the former focusing on the raising up of Mary and the latter on her not being subject to death. (Eastern Orthodox speak of Mary’s “dormition,” which stresses her not being subject to death because of her freedom from original sin.)
What was most compelling to me, though, was his stress on our treating days like today, not primarily as matters of dogma, but in terms of what they say to us about us and our lives.
If our picture of the Assumption is of a prone Mary being bodily lifted up by angels into heaven, it seems a bit otherworldly.
On the other hand, if our focus on the Assumption is on Mary’s experience as an embodiment of the reality of our Resurrection, it becomes something much mor meaningful to us. Jesus resurrection is, of course, the true victory over death – that which gives creates the possibility of our own resurrection and ultimate full union with God. But with Jesus there is always the nagging thought, “Well sure, he was God, of course it worked for him. He may have been fully human, but he was also fully divine from the get go.”
But Mary was human, like us. And Mary’s assumption into heaven, body and soul, symbolizes for us the reality of what will happen for all of – resurrection of the body into full union with God. You can phrase it various ways as a matter of dogma. But her experience is, in simplest terms, a foretaste of our own.