Virtually all Christians including non-Catholics would agree that one of our most important religious celebrations is that of the Incarnation at Christmas. Even our secular culture, despite all its misunderstandings of this feast, acknowledges even if indirectly the importance of a God who has taken on human flesh.
Something we can forget, however, is what deep ripple effects the Incarnation has upon our world, and many of the other feast days we celebrate throughout the liturgical year as Catholics seek to remind us of these ramifications. Take, for example, the Ascension, in which we celebrate the fact that Heaven is now inhabited by human flesh, the flesh and blood and sinew of the risen and glorified Jesus Christ.
When the Son of God took on our flesh, a revolution occurred, an event that left our world changed forever. The Divine was knit to the earthly in a way that is now inseparable for all eternity. Our bodies have been sanctified in a new way by the Body of the God Man.
One of the Marian feast days that also underscores the incarnational reality in which we now live is the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary. Just as heaven is now inhabited by the flesh of a Man, now it is also inhabited by the body, mind, heart and soul of a woman.
In underlining this mystery, the Church is reminding us of many truths: that God’s special call for Mary which began at her Immaculate Conception and continued throughout every Fiat she spoke with her life, now reaches a climax as her whole person, including her body, is assumed into heaven. There are many other theological layers of this mystery that could be unpacked and explained, but what can we receive today as we contemplate the Assumption?
First of all, God reminds us of a truth He has been repeating since the first pages of Genesis (cfr. Gen 1:31): You are good. You are very good. Your body is good. Your heart is good. Your deepest desires are good. And as much as our sin and brokenness can mar or distract from this goodness, fundamentally the goodness of who we are as God’s gift can never change, because we come directly from His hand, His heart, His love; and God can only create good things. His creation is not defective. You and I are not defective. And Mary’s bodily dwelling in heaven reminds us of this truth.
This leads us to the promise that awaits fulfillment for each of us: the promise that heaven is being prepared for many more minds, bodies and souls.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. – John 14:2-3
There is a place for us in heaven, a place not just for our souls but also for our bodies, for these good bodies that our good God has fashioned to glorify Him. This is the distinctive characteristic of the Assumption of Mary: that her body is with God in heaven, not only her soul. We know that the souls of many many saints are with God in heaven; but they, like us are awaiting the resurrection of the body on the last day. Mary, through God’s great mercy, has been chosen to precede us, just as Jesus has preceded us in His resurrection and ascension. But whereas Jesus is both God and Man, Mary is a human person like you and me, and can be at times even a closer bridge for us to divine realities. In a sense we can say that not only is Jesus preparing a place for us, but now Mary is as well.
So as we celebrate her feast day this year on the Solemnity of the Assumption, let us turn to her intercession with faith and trust; let us cling to her, as Jesus did in his infancy and throughout his life, and let us ask for the grace to imitare her great surrender to God’s loving plan.
— Reflection written by Sr. Ruth Kuefler, AVI