Put Out into the Deep

Assumption Means Renewal

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

There is a wonderful story of a little girl who is lost in a shopping mall. She was crying and no one could comfort her. Finally, a policeman came upon her and asked, “Little girl, have you lost your mother?”

The little girl stopped crying and responded, “No, my mother lost me!”

Many times in the course of our lives we feel that we are lost. This coming week, we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In many ways, it is about a mother who cannot lose any of her children, a mother to whom we can go whenever we feel lost, alienated, or simply in need of comfort.

Because Mary was the Mother of God and bore Jesus in her virginal womb, she received two special privileges. One we call the Immaculate Conception. In this mystery of our faith, we recognize that Mary was born free from the stain of Original Sin that, in view of her place in the redemption, she was preserved from Original Sin and all of its effects.

The second privilege Mary received was the Assumption, which is the consequence of the Immaculate Conception because one of the consequences of Original Sin is death and corruption. Because of her divine motherhood, no sin touched Mary and no corruption touched her after death. It is a wonderful reminder to us of our own resurrection because Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, body and soul, mirrors the Resurrection of Jesus.

This doctrine of our faith was solemnly proclaimed in 1950 by Pope Pius XII. In the Apostolic Constitution defining the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Father simply concluded with this powerful phrase, “That the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into Heavenly glory.”

The doctrine did not definitively state that Mary died, but clearly states that she was assumed body and soul into Heaven. It would seem that, if death is a consequence of Original Sin, she would have been preserved from that too. However, since Jesus, Himself, died, it may be that she also underwent death as a prelude to her Assumption.

The celebration of the Assumption is a feast desperately needed in our world that has many doubts about eternal life. A recent survey indicated that only about 80 percent of Catholic and Protestant Christians believe in life after death. It is difficult to explain the concept of eternal life to those who have no faith. Both Scripture and tradition give us ample evidence on which we can base our hope in eternal life.

Recently, I viewed various artistic portrayals of Mary’s Assumption: icons, baroque paintings and simple portrayals of that wonderful mystery. In all of these renderings, it seems that it is not a woman in her 60s who was assumed into Heaven, but rather a rejuvenated younger woman. Many times, artists have insights into the mysteries of faith that others miss. Depictions of the resurrection of the dead remind us that we all will be renewed. We will become young again in order to enjoy the fruits of the resurrection.

As we celebrate Mary’s Assumption into Heaven this Tuesday, Aug. 15, perhaps we can use the feast to rekindle our faith in eternal life. Death is the ultimate voyage as we put out into the deep. But we recognize that the path to eternal life first has been shown to us by Jesus in His Resurrection and confirmed for us by Mary’s Assumption. Mary is a mother who does not lose her children, even though we might, at times, feel lost.

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