This feast is not just a "Catholic fairytale."
Once upon a time, there was a girl who was the most excellent daughter. She was the treasure of her father’s heart—his princess. Her father’s fondest wish was that she would become a queen and mother. That’s what she did. And she lived happily ever after.
These somewhat fairytale-like words summarize the theology underlying the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, body and soul, into Heaven. Unlike fairytales, however, the dogma of the Assumption of Mary is completely true.
Here’s what we celebrate today: By the saving work of her divine Son, Mary was preserved from the moment of conception from the stain of sin so that she could make her perfect yes to her vocation to be the mother of the Incarnate Word of God.
The Word became flesh because of the gift of her consent given by her soul and by the gift of her body. Therefore she enjoys a sharing of body and harmony of soul with the Son of God. That sharing was so intimate that her heart was pierced when he suffered and died for our salvation. That intimacy was so profound that she shared the joy of the resurrection with her Risen Son. That intimacy they shared was so thorough that she shares fully in her Son’s victory, so that it shouldn’t surprise us that she was spared the corruption that ordinarily comes with death, and was assumed body and soul into the glory of her risen Son in Heaven.
Mary is the perfect illustration of what God intends for his human creatures. Mary is what you look like when a human gets it right. She is proof that God’s plan for us isn’t merely wishful thinking but is already achieving its purpose.
To which one might reply, “Well, that’s nice. But so what?” Might not a skeptical Christian compare the doctrine of the Assumption to the discovery of a distant galaxy? What difference does it make?
It can and should make a very practical, enduring difference if we understand it properly. If we desire to end up like Mary, we must admit that we are unlike Mary, and we must live now in imitation of Mary.
To end up like Mary, we must pray and adore. Luke’s Gospel notes that Mary “pondered all these things in her heart.” We should imitate Mary’s prayerful pondering, especially through the Rosary. More than ever, let’s ponder the mystery of Mary’s Assumption, for there we find the truth about God’s plans for human nature. As we come to know God’s plans for human nature, we will weep for joy as we behold God’s mercy, and weep for sorrow as we behold human disobedience.
Mary’s Assumption announces human dignity. The dignity of the human soul, with its radical capacity for knowing the truth and willing the good is already present and fulfilled before the throne of God in the human nature of Mary. And the majesty of the human body, with God’s wisdom and self-revelation inscribed in gendered human flesh, is already present and fulfilled before the throne of God in the human nature of Mary.
The purpose of life in this world is to prepare ourselves to become what Mary has already become—a fulfilled, completed human creature glorifying God eternally. Yet in this world we see the human body and soul are being betrayed.
Planned Parenthood has reduced the human body to a collection of parts to be cannibalized for profit. If such represent the lowest point of the human condition, let’s turn to the human condition at its highest point, to the “woman clothed with the sun,” and with her intercession resist the servants of the dragon. Mary’s perfect use of human freedom is our standard.
Mary said yes to God with her body and soul, and she now spends eternity in joyful worship. The best way to have our hearts formed to desire Heaven is to spend time at that point where Heaven touches Earth, in worship of our Eucharistic Lord.
We and Mary are alike as human; we are unlike her as sinners. If we would look like Mary in the end, we need a rescue and remedy right now. We must gladly and frequently come to confession where Christ restores us to the innocence that Mary has always enjoyed.
We honor the Assumption striving to live as Mary lived on Earth, through words of witness and works of charity. Today, let’s strive to pray, adore and serve as Mary does now; to repent as Mary never needed to; and to imitate her in words of witness and works of charity. If we do that, we can look forward to living, like Mary, “happily ever after.”
When I write next, I will speak of Christian self-mastery. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.