Sharing Fully in the Lord’s Victory
The Story of the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary
On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary to be a dogma of faith: “We pronounce, declare and define it 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 to heavenly glory.” The pope proclaimed this dogma only after a broad consultation of bishops, theologians and laity. There were few dissenting voices. What the pope solemnly declared was already a common belief in the Catholic Church.
We find homilies on the Assumption going back to the sixth century. In following centuries, the Eastern Churches held steadily to the doctrine, but some authors in the West were hesitant. However by the 13th century there was universal agreement. The feast was celebrated under various names—Commemoration, Dormition, Passing, Assumption—from at least the fifth or sixth century. Today it is celebrated as a solemnity.
Scripture does not give an account of Mary’s Assumption into heaven. Nevertheless, Revelation 12 speaks of a woman who is caught up in the battle between good and evil. Many see this woman as God’s people. Since Mary best embodies the people of both Old and New Testaments, her Assumption can be seen as an exemplification of the woman’s victory.
Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 15:20, Paul speaks of Christ’s resurrection as the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Since Mary is closely associated with all the mysteries of Jesus’ life, it is not surprising that the Holy Spirit has led the Church to believe in Mary’s share in his glorification. So close was she to Jesus on earth, she must be with him body and soul in heaven.
In the light of the Assumption of Mary, it is easy to pray her Magnificat (Luke 1:46–55) with new meaning. In her glory she proclaims the greatness of the Lord and finds joy in God her savior. God has done marvels to her and she leads others to recognize God’s holiness. She is the lowly handmaid who deeply reverenced her God and has been raised to the heights. From her position of strength she will help the lowly and the poor find justice on earth, and she will challenge the rich and powerful to distrust wealth and power as a source of happiness.
On this day, the Church solemnly celebrates the Paschal mystery of Christ in a special way as she recalls the unique relationship between the Virgin Mary and her Son and the truth that, at the completion of her earthly life, Mary was taken into heaven, body and soul.
The Solemnity of the Assumption is the celebration of the eternal happiness and glory that all the faithful are called to share and which we believe will be ours in the Kingdom of Heaven.
For prayer and reflection
“Like Mary, our Mother, we are called to share fully in the Lord’s victory over sin and death, and to reign with him in his eternal Kingdom. This is our vocation.”—Pope Francis
August 15 also marks the feast of Our Lady of La Vang, the name given to an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1798 to a group of Vietnamese Catholics who had taken refuge in the rainforest of La Vang in Quang Tri Province, Vietnam. Although the apparition has not been approved by the Holy See, the comfort and encouragement Our Lady provided during the apparition has become a source of great courage and consolation for Vietnamese Catholics throughout the world.
Several communities of men and women religious are named for the mystery of the Assumption. To learn more, visit the links below.
The Benedictine Monks of Assumption Abbey (Richardton, ND): www.assumptionabbey.com
The Trappist Monks of Assumption Abbey (Ava, MO): www.assumptionabbey.org
The Assumptionists (Augustinians of the Assumption): www.assumption.us
Religious of the Assumption: www.assumptionsisters.org
Little Sisters of the Assumption: www.littlesisters.org
Carmel of the Assumption (Latrobe, PA): www.latrobecarmel.org
Almighty ever-living God,
who assumed the Immaculate Virgin Mary, the Mother of your Son,
body and soul into heavenly glory,
grant, we pray,
that, always attentive to the things that are above,
we may merit to be sharers of her glory.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.