For those who don’t know, earlier this week I had to have a minor surgical procedure done. It was 10 minutes of drama, 5 minutes of pain, and then it was all done but for letting myself heal. It was a minor deal, done in the doctor’s office with a local anesthetic, so I was fully prepared to get myself to and from the hospital and take care of the wound as needed. And in discussing plans with my mother, it was very apparent that she was not about to let that happen. And indeed, she took me to and from the hospital, she was there when my blood pressure took a sudden dip into the deep end before the procedure, she made sure I had my prescriptions and medical supplies, she took me back to the family house to rest, she helped me clean and dress the wound the first few times – and she did these things not because I wasn’t able to do them myself (though certain side effects of the meds did make the going a little difficult), but because she’s my mother: she loves me, she could help me, and she could make sure I wouldn’t be alone.
Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. On this day we remember, celebrate and believe that at the end of her earthly life the Mother of God was taken into heaven both in soul and in body. This belief is so ancient, so important, so fundamental to the Catholic faith that in 1950, after a worldwide survey of the faithful, it was declared a universal dogma of the Catholic Church by Pope Pius XII. We are also, for the same reasons, obliged to attend Mass on this day, to participate in rendering to God ultimate praise for the great gift of Mary’s Assumption. This special privilege granted to Mary through the merits of her Son crowns her life as the image of faith and the beacon of hope. She is the epitome of the Resurrection, just as her Son is the reality of it.
But what does it all mean? What are we really saying when we say all of this?
I read a book recently that explained the concept of the Assumption very well, and in a way that help us understand the larger impact of it. The author, Father Robert Barron, explained that when we speak of Mary being assumed into heaven in her body and soul, we mean that she was shifted without the loss of her body into the fuller dimensional reality that our word “heaven” represents, the reality that includes the “all things visible and invisible” that we mention in the Creed. And she exists there even now in the full and total reality that we are each promised in our own resurrection, when our souls are reunited with our bodies and our bodies are transformed after the pattern of Jesus’ own transfigured risen body. Existing in this way, we can speak of her as being at once with God in heaven and with us here on earth.
Science tells us that all children leave a trace of themselves within their mothers, and that this trace remains there for ever. It is all the more fitting then that the holy Mother of God, who for ever bears within her human body a trace of her Son’s total divinity – and so she is, eternally, the God-bearer (Theotokos) – did not suffer the corruption of the grave and exists wholly and entirely in heaven in a glorified state, just like her Son. For that reason she remains always with all of us who are the members of her Son’s mystical Body – that is, the Church. We are all connected through the Mystery of the Incarnation. She is in a very real sense, and maybe more real than we care to appreciate, our Mother too. And as our Mother, she is ever ready to take care of us, support us, intercede on our behalf – not because we are so utterly helpless (though mortality does have its limits), but because she is our Mother: she loves us, she can help us, and she will make sure that we are not alone.
That’s the gift of the Assumption. For all time, by the grace of God and the triumph of Jesus, Mary remains the Mother of the Church. And a loving mother who can help her child will never let that child be alone.
So as you step into the Church to give thanks to God for such a great gift–not just this year, but every year–just take a moment to say to Mary what I said to my mother the other day as she drove me back home: “Thank you for not letting me be alone.”