A Real Feast Day
Mary's destiny and glory is our destiny and glory
One is tempted to view feast days of the Church with a certain abstract detachment. The events they mark seem relegated to the past and thus lack a certain realness to them. But the Solemnity of the Assumption keeps us from succumbing to this temptation. Among the many Marian feast days it is the most “real” because it impacts each of us most directly. This impact is felt for at least three reasons.
The first is a theological reason. Within some Catholics circles one senses an almost reflexive rejection of anything that even hints at Mary’s greatness. Once we lower these defenses it becomes clear that in diminishing her, we take away from Christ. Christ has promised a share in His bodily resurrection. But in His wisdom, He chose not to bestow this immediately upon death but only at the end of time. In a single case He did grant an immediate share in His resurrection: in Mary’s Assumption. Mary is the first fruit of redemption so that all that was promised to us in Christ is actual in her, bodily resurrection included. The Assumption reveals both God’s power and wisdom. Remove her bodily assumption and you have diminished the proof of the power of the Resurrection over death.
In addition to strengthening our own faith in Christ’s salvific power, there is also a biological reason why the Assumption matters. Scientific embryology has found that fetal cells migrate into the mother during pregnancy and can remain in the mother’s body for decades. When the God-Man took flesh in Mary, He left behind His DNA. Mary carried around part of Christ’s body, the same body that could not be corrupted, for the rest of her life. It is as if the Ascension was not complete until her Assumption. This is significant because it shows how deeply the vocation to motherhood is ingrained in woman. She is a Virgin who carries about in her person the marks of her motherhood.
But this is not the only way in which the biological supports the theological. She is portrayed in Scripture as the Ark of the New Covenant (c.f. Rev 11:19 -12:17). In carrying around the body of Christ, the true Manna from heaven, she was in fact perfecting the Old Testament type of the Ark of the Covenant.
Finally, there is the sociological meaning. The providential timing of the declaration of the Dogma of the Assumption cannot be overlooked. In the past 70 years the female body has been subject to exploitation and profanation on an unprecedented scale. Women scramble to remove every spot and blemish from their bodies, but the Assumption reminds us that the female body is eternally beautiful when every spot and blemish is removed from the soul. Thanks to Photoshop we are treated to images of supposedly “perfect” female bodies, which devalue real women and lead men to the cult of pornography. The Assumption is a clarion call proclaiming the dignity of women. As St. John Paul II put it, “In the face of the profanation and debasement to which modern society frequently subjects the female body, the mystery of the Assumption proclaims the supernatural destiny and dignity of every human body, called by the Lord to become an instrument of holiness and to share in his glory” (GA, July 9,1997).
In many ways then the Assumption is the most “real” of all Marian feasts because her destiny and glory is our destiny and glory. We too long for the resurrection of our bodies when we will be found wholly united to Christ and without spot or blemish (cf. Eph 5:27). Let us then celebrate the feast with great joy.
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