Friday, August 15, 2014

Mary Raised, Body and Soul, into Heaven!

Today, the Church Universal celebrates the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast commemorates the physical, bodily, raising of Mary into heaven where she sits, body and soul (unlike the rest of the saints, whose bodies remain in the earth). While the doctrine of the Assumption has been with the Church from the earliest days, it was given added emphasis when Pope Pius XII formally (and infallibly) declared it a dogma of the Faith in his 1950 Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus.
For which reason, after we have poured forth prayers of supplication again and again to God, and have invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, for the glory of Almighty God who has lavished his special affection upon the Virgin Mary, for the honor of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the Victor over sin and death, for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church; by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: 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. (44)

pope pacelli
Venerable Pope Pius XII
Thus, we know with absolute certitude that Mary, unlike the other saints, enjoys a special honor in Heaven. We might pause and briefly wonder why? Not why she enjoys a special honor (of that no real Catholic can be surprised), but why this honor? Why was her body raised into Heaven before the general resurrection? Pope Benedict XVI, in a homily in 2012, gave a great answer to this question,
But why is Mary glorified by the Assumption into heaven? St. Luke, as we have heard, sees the root of Mary's exaltation and praise in Elizabeth's words: "Blessed is she who believed" (Luke 1:45). And the "Magnificat," this song to the living God who acts in history, is a hymn of faith and love that flows from the heart of the Virgin. She lived with exemplary fidelity and treasured in the depths of her heart God's words to his people, the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, making them the content of her prayer: in the "Magnificat" God's Word becomes Mary's word, the light of her path, making her open even to receiving the Word of God made flesh in her womb. Today's Gospel passage recalls this presence of God in history and in the very unfolding of events; in particular it is a reference to the second Book of Samuel, chapter 6 (6:1-5), in which David transports the Ark of the Holy Covenant. The parallel that the evangelist makes is clear: Mary awaiting the birth of the Son, Jesus, is the Holy Ark. Mary is God's "visit" that brings joy. Zachariah, in his song of praise, will say this explicitly: "Blessed be the Lord, God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people" (Luke 1:68). Zachariah's house had experienced God's visit with the birth of John the Baptist, but above all with the presence of Mary, who bears the Son of God in her womb. (source)
Pope Emeritus
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Mary's body, then, is consecrated to the Lord in a unique way. Letting her flesh rot in the ground, then, would be an act of desecration, it would see something holy (set apart for the Lord) used as if it were profane. It was to avoid this profanation that God raised Mary's physical body into Heaven, to do less would be unthinkable - indeed unjust - and thus impossible for the God of Justice to allow.

Let us enjoy this great Feast, this pledge of our own eventually bodily resurrection at the end of time, by raising our voices, with Mary, in prayer and praise,
"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;my spirit rejoices in God my Saviorfor he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.From this day all generations will call me blessed:the Almighty has done great things for meand holy is his Name.He has mercy on those who fear himin every generation.He has shown the strength of his arm,and has scattered the proud in their conceit.He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,and has lifted up the lowly.He has filled the hungry with good things,and the rich he has sent away empty.He has come to the help of his servant Israelfor he has remembered his promise of mercy,the promise he made to our fathers,to Abraham and his children forever." (Lk 1:46-55)
Domenico Piola


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