CITE ME THE PASSAGE!
Many different Christian denominations celebrate the same feasts that we do as Catholics. For example, like us, they celebrate the birth of Jesus and his presentation in the Temple. They celebrate his being transfigured in glory before Peter, James, and John. They remember the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem and his final meal with his disciples. They celebrate his passion, death, resurrection, ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit.
However, unlike Catholics and Orthodox Christians, Protestant denominations do not celebrate the Assumption of Mary. That is because unlike the events just mentioned, there is no scripture passage that directly speaks of the Assumption of Mary.
That is evident when we consider the readings chosen for this Sunday’s celebration of the Assumption. They do not describe Mary being assumed body and soul into heaven at the end of her life.
The First Reading (Revelation 11:19a, 12:1-6a, 10ab) speaks of a woman about to give birth who is being threatened by a dragon. Using symbolic language, the reading references the coming of the Messiah.
In the Second Reading (1 Corinthians 15:20-27), Saint Paul writes that death came into the world through Adam, but Christ conquered death and brought life.
The Gospel reading (Luke 1:39-56) is about Mary visiting her relative Elizabeth. Both women are with child. When Elizabeth sees Mary, she recognizes that Mary is bearing the Savior. Even Elizabeth’s unborn child leaps for joy. In response, Mary proclaims the greatness of the Lord as she says that, “the Almighty has done great things for me.”
We might conclude that God who did a great thing for Mary in choosing her to be the mother of his Son, did another great thing for her at the end of her life. Rather than having her body undergo corruption, God allowed Mary to share in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting when her days on earth came to an end.
In the Assumption of Mary, the Church is given a reminder of what awaits those who strive like Mary to do what God asks of them, who strive to be faithful followers of Christ. In the resurrection, they will share in the new life that Mary now enjoys. As the Preface for the Mass of this feast proclaims, “The Virgin Mother of God was assumed into heaven as … a sign of sure hope and comfort to your pilgrim people.”
We can also gain some understanding into the Church’s belief in the Assumption of Mary if we consider our own human experience. Just as we would desire to give the best of gifts to the mother who carried us in her womb, gave us life, and raised us, would not God want to do the same – to give the best gift possible to his mother – to bring her to the glory of heaven when her earthly life had ended?
The Preface of the Solemnity of the Assumption answers that question as it speaks of God watching over Mary. It says, “… rightly you would not allow her to see the corruption of the tomb since from her own body she marvelously brought forth your incarnate Son, the Author of all life.”
While there is no account of the Assumption in the scriptures, the belief of the Church since the earliest centuries of Christianity and the love we have for our own mothers, give us ample reasons to joyfully celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary!
© 2021 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski