In many countries around the world, today is a Holiday. There will be no banking today in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Austria, or Poland. In Greece, France, and Colombia there will be parades, processions, and parties. There will be laughing, singing, dancing, and feasting. In many places, the celebrations will go long into the night. For us Americans, including modern Catholic, it will be business as usual. We’ll go off to work, race around, run to the gym, and grab a quick bite to eat. We’ll watch America’s Got Talent or maybe Hoarders and, glad that the day is over, we’ll collapse into bed.
What our Protestant country doesn’t know is that today is one of the most magnificent and glorious days in the calendar of the Church: the day that Our Most Blessed Mother was assumed, body and soul, into heaven. It’s a glorious day, not only because the Mother of Our Lord was taken to heaven, but because it is a reminder that Our Lord keeps his promises. For if we remain faithful to Our Lord, if we work out our salvation like St. Paul tells us, with fear and trembling, then, we too, will share in the joy Our Lady already enjoys. On the last day, our earthly body will join our eternal soul in Heaven.
When I became a Catholic, I didn’t really have an understanding about Our Blessed Mother at all. As a Protestant of varying stripes, Mary was really not much of a big deal. We talked about her only once a year at Christmas. Even then, She was minimized. She was just some poor, teenage girl that God randomly assigned to be a surrogate mother. It didn’t really mean anything. And if the Annunciation doesn’t mean anything for Mary, then no other event in Her life is remotely significant. She is, in essence, inconsequential. This belief has a tremendous impact on a person’s belief in God, as well as their worldview, but I won’t go into that today. It is, however, something that must be discussed in detail, especially since the modern Catholic Church has already initiated the removal of Our Most Blessed Mother from liturgical practice and, more importantly, from the thoughts of modern Catholics.
From the moment of Her Immaculate Conception, Our Most Blessed Mother was chosen by God to participate in the most significant moment in history—the Incarnation. With Her Fiat (not a little red sports car), Our Most Blessed Mother, without doubt or question, accepted the Divine Plan as Her own and became the Most Chaste Spouse of the Holy Ghost. As such, She carried in her womb and bore into the world, God Made Flesh, Our Lord and Savior. With Her, the Divine became Man. It was Our Beloved Mother who nursed Our Lord at Her breasts. It was Her milk He drank, Her breasts he reached to for comfort. It was Her arms that nurtured Him, Her lips that kissed His Most Beautiful Face when He was a Child and when He fell to the ground under the weight of His Cross. It was into Her arms that He was born and it was into Her arms that He lay after dying on that same Cross. It was She who knew Him first and understood. So, in honor, as His Mother, Our Lord gave Her the privilege and glory of being the first to join the Blessed Trinity in Heaven.
Unfortunately, nothing is known precisely about the Blessed Virgin’s death. When Our Lord died on the Cross, He left His Mother in the care of the beloved Apostle, St. John. She lived out Her days in his care, praying for and working with the Apostles to bring about Christ’s mission for the world. One can only imagine that, being the Mother of Our Lord, Mary attracted a lot of attention in those years after the Resurrection. But instead of taking an active role in the early Church, She sat quietly so the Apostles could do their work, just as Our Lord had requested.
Tradition holds that Mary lived in this manner until about the year 50 A.D, when She died as quietly as She lived. Upon her death, it is believed that the Apostles buried her in a tomb either in Jerusalem or near Ephesus. But shortly thereafter, either in minutes, hours, or a few days, Our Lord, out of honor to His Blessed Mother, took her, body and soul, into Heaven. As such, Our Mother is greatest of all Saints and She enjoys the special privilege of being the first one to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. It is Our Lord who took Her up with Him and it is Our Lord who gives Her to us. Just as we have a Father in Heaven, we also have a Mother in Heaven! How gracious Our Lord is to us, indeed.
As the Church began to grow, the news of Our Blessed Mother’s Assumption into Heaven spread. Each new generation of Christians found ways to honor Her and show their love for Her. Initially the “Memory of Mary” was only kept by those who lived in Jerusalem and Palestine. After the Christians came out of the catacombs in the 4th century, Her memorial slowly began to spread like a ivy vine until by the Middle Ages devotion to Mary had grown into the magnificent festivals, feasts, and processions that marked Catholicism. The Feast of the Assumption became, for the Church, the single most important feast honoring Our Blessed Mother. Across the globe, there are cities named after this day and many Churches dating back hundreds of years. Today some of the most celebrated holidays are centered around the hottest part of the summer and the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. In 1950, because the entire Catholic Church was so devoted to Mary and celebrating this feast, Pope Pius XII, declared the Assumption of Mary to be dogma—and thus a belief that all Christians must hold as Truth.
For us, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, gives hope and promise. Mary, the Mother of Our Lord, sends us Her motherly love and comfort from Heaven. She is an example for us, that, on the Last Day, our earthly bodies will be glorified in Heaven, as Hers is. Our hope is Her hope. Just as She did on earth, Our Blessed Mother draws us closer to Our Lord. She helps us to know Him better, to love Him better, to understand Him better. What a great gift Our Lord has given us—His Mother!
Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee do we cry poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us, and, after this our exile, show unto us the Blessed Fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary, pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.