Sunday, August 16, 2020

August 16, 2020

 August 16, 2020

Assumption of our Lady

(Revelation 11:19, 12:1-6, 10; Luke 1:39-56)

Today we honor our Lady Mary with the Catholic view that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven. It is one of those teachings or dogmas that can be strange to non-Catholics. With that said, I thought I would share some thoughts from an apologetic point of view to help us understand why we believe this to be true.

The feast of the Assumption has been a bone of contention between Catholics and non-Catholic traditions for many centuries. From a non-Catholic point of view, if it isn’t in the Bible, then it simply isn’t true. Because this teaching is not specifically mentioned in the New Testament, non-Catholics cannot accept any teachings about God taking our Lady Mary directly into heaven.

The Assumption of Mary teaching states that Mary was taken body and soul into heaven upon her death, with no long period of “sleeping,” nor a grave like others. The feast has been celebrated since the fourth century. 

Sixteenth-century Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, included this feast on a list of liturgical celebrations that should, in his words, “be observed among Evangelical Catholics as a sign of continuity and order.” Martin Luther, considered the founder of the Lutheran Church, left the Catholic Church by nailing his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church in Germany, thus starting the Protestant Reformation and starting the schism of the time.

While non-Catholics generally accept the assumption of Elijah (2 Kings 2:11) and that of the penitent thief (Luke 23:43), since both of these are directly mentioned in the Bible, they shy away from or even oppose suggestions that God also made it possible for Mary, Mother of our Lord, to be taken up to heaven to be with Him.

Cardinal John Henry Newman made four important points appealing to reason for the acceptance of the Assumption of our Lady.

First, he notes that Mary’s Divine Son loved her too much to let her body remain in the grave.

Second, since she was not only dear to our Lord as a mother is dear to a son but also transcendently holy and so overflowing with grace that though she died for a brief time as did our Lord Himself; yet, like Him and by His almighty power, she was raised again from the grave.

Third, the ancient Church records contain no notes of a tomb of Mary. (Meaning the Apostles did not relate verbal Tradition of an actual tomb. Most notably John, whom Jesus places His Mother as John’s mother and in his care – a precursor of Mary becoming the mother of us all.) The early Church was very conscious of the tombs of the Saints; for example, St. Mark speaks of the tomb of St. John the Baptist, St. Peter talks about the sepulcher of David, and great attention is given to the burial spots of Sts. Stephen, Mark, Barnabas, Peter, and Paul. If the Church was that concerned with burial spots of the Saints, how much more would it be concerned with the body of the Mother of our Lord? Evidently, there was no permanent burial and therefore no body.

Fourth, is that since other servants of God have been raised from the grave by the power of God, we can’t suppose our Lord would have granted that privilege to anyone else without also granting it to His own Mother.

Now, I have another thought for you. I will try to make this short, but still clear. 

As Christians, most of us agree with the doctrine of the Trinity (which, I might add, is a word/title of God not actually in the Bible either). We agree in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We agree that the Word became man (Jesus – Son). I think most of us would also agree that God is so pure that we humans could not be in His presence and actually live (this is actually in the Bible!). Therefore, if God, in the second person of the Son, was to be born of a human being as He actually did, then the vessel that He would inhabit during the normal human pregnancy process needed to be pure, or else that chosen human woman would die instantly upon the moment of the Holy Spirit entering her and her being conceived in this way! So, Mary was especially chosen (probably at the beginning of time) to be this vessel and therefore was made pure (I will avoid the topic of Original Sin here, that is another topic) at her conception and Tradition says she remained pure throughout her life (again semi-obvious if God was to enter into her). 

Now, all this said, if God made her so pure – beyond that of any other human except Jesus Himself – then it stands to reason, He would not allow His vessel – His Mother – experience corruption of burial after death. If we can see Elijah and Moses at the Transfiguration of Jesus, both human beings and certainly not pure enough to bear Jesus (gender aside), and thus realize they must be in heaven, then surely His own Mother would enjoy the same!

Saint John Damascene, an outstanding herald of this traditional truth, spoke out with powerful eloquence when he [said], “It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption…. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow…should look upon him as he sits with the Father. It was fitting that God’s Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God.”…

In the life of our Lady, it is natural that her death should not be like that of other humans, since she was accorded a special honor and thus no average human being. Mary died even as our Lord and Savior died, but through the merits of her Son, she also had been saved from the grave.

Therefore, hopefully we can gather all Christians to celebrate Mary’s Assumption into heaven with her Son. 

God Love You +++

++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens

Pastor – St. Francis Chapel

San Diego, CA

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