Feast of the Assumption

The verb "assume" has several meanings. Its primary meaning is "take up," which is precisely the sense intended in today’s celebration of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As we pray in the Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer, "Today the virgin Mother of God was taken up into heaven." We celebrate the mystery--proclaimed as dogma by Pius XII on November 1, 1950--that "when the course of her earthly life was finished, [Mary] was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven" (Munificentissimus Deus). But "assume" can also mean "take as granted or true." It is this sense of the verb that I’d like to focus on. What are we assuming, taking as granted, when we celebrate Mary’s Assumption? In the first place, we assume that Marian celebrations ultimately direct our attention to her Son, just as in her lifetime Mary directed those around her to heed Jesus and his words (John 2:5). Specifically, today’s feast invites us to contemplate the wonder of Christ’s victory over the power of death. The second reading, from 1 Cor 15:20-27, makes this clear as Paul proclaims the good news that "Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep." In the dog days of summer (at least in the northern hemisphere), we are beckoned to enjoy an Easter oasis. In the second place, we assume that Mary has a special relationship with the Church, as the crucified Jesus indicated with his words to her and the beloved disciple (John 19:26-27). The Preface captures well this intimate connection: Mary’s Assumption marks "the beginning and the pattern of the Church in its perfection, and a sign of hope and comfort for your people on their pilgrim way." Today’s feast thus reminds us that we are people on a journey, destined to "a better homeland, a heavenly one" (Heb 11:16). We are summoned to be people of hope. And as the Adam-typology of the second reading suggests, we are called to walk in the ways of Jesus, the new or second Adam, whose self-giving love and service of others, in obedience to the Father, revealed how human beings can fully live in and reflect God’s image. Thomas D. Stegman, S.J.
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