Today we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Mother into heaven, a dogma of the Catholic Faith that tells us that at the end of her earthly life she was taken body and soul into the glory of heaven. The dogma was defined only recently, by Pope Pius XII on All saints day in 1950, but it has been belief of Christians since the earliest days of the Church. Indeed, even though the Orthodox and Catholic Churches have been separated for roughly a thousand years, both are celebrating this same feast today.
In order to understand the Assumption, we need to begin at the beginning, in the Book of Genesis, and the creation of the universe. We know that at the beginning of time, God created two different types of creature. First, of all, He made the angels; spiritual creatures like Himself, who were unhampered by material limitations. He also made the material part of the universe; animal, vegetable, and mineral. Finally, he made a composite creature; man; spiritual in His own image, but also material like the other part of creation.
Man is immortal in his soul, in that spiritual creatures are not subject to damage and destruction. But in his material part, man is subject to the same frailties as all material creation; break-down, decomposition, sickness and death.
Aware of these limitations, God designed to give man certain special gifts [preternatural gifts] that would put his material half on par with his spiritual half. Through these gifts man was freed from the sickness and death that limited his physical activities; and he was freed from the material limitations on his intellect and creativity.
The problem, of course, was that through their pride and disobedience, our first parents spurned God's favor, and lost these precious gifts. Henceforth, man would be like the rest of material creation; subject to pain and ignorance during the relatively brief span of his life, and finally to material death. Perhaps worse, even the spiritual side of mankind was alienated from God and had forfeited the eternal happiness for which it had been created.
As we know, God promised a Redeemer almost immediately. He indicated that He would send a woman whose Son would crush the head of the devil represented by the serpent.
And then, in the fullness of time, God intervened in human history once again. When Mary—who would be the Mother of the Redeemer—when she was conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, she was conceived without original sin. That is that she was conceived with the life of God in her soul; not alienated from Him. She was conceived with the special gifts of Adam and Eve, and as long as she remained sinless she was free from the material corruption of sickness and death.
For example, we understand that some years later, when our Lord was born, she felt no pain—and He was born without the physical loss of her virginity.
We know, finally that Mary persevered in her sinless state until the end of her time here on earth. And at that point—the event we are celebrating today—she was taken body and soul into heaven. The sinless body that had given birth to our Savior would never be subject to the decomposition of death and the grave. Our Lord Jesus Christ, Himself ascended into heaven body and soul, would be reunited body and soul with His loving Mother.
Like most of these things, there is something here to inspire and instruct us. We were not conceived like Mary, without original sin. We were born alienated from God. But through our Baptism, the life of God has been kindled in our souls. Yet, we live in danger of loosing sanctifying grace through our personal sin. The Assumption of the Blessed Mother should remind us that Mary could have sinned, but chose not to. We have the same choice—and we ought to pick the same alternative as she did.
The feast of the Assumption should inspire us to call upon Mary, to ask her help, and to choose to reject sin and live the life with God.