Assumption of the Blessed Virgin,
Bartolome Esteban Murillo
(1618 - 1682) circa 1640
Melito of Sardis -
Assumption or Dormition of the Blessed Virgin
Breviary Readings on
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“Before all ages, in the beginning He
and through all ages I shall not cease to be....
My abode is in the full assembly of the saints.”
Some time around the
mid-nineteenth century, the great liturgical writer Dom Prosper Guéranger,
abbot of Solesmes, wrote:
The God made Man revealed to us the only name which fully expressed Him in
His twofold nature; He is called “The Son.” Son of Man as He is Son of
God, on earth He had only a Mother, as in heaven He had only a Father. In
the august Trinity He proceeds from the Father, remaining consubstantial
with Him; only distinguished from Him in that He is the Son; producing
together with Him, as one Principle, the Holy Ghost.
In the external mission He fulfils by the Incarnation (to the glory of the
Blessed Trinity)—communicating to His humanity the manners, so to say, of
His Divinity, as far as the diversity of the two natures permits—He
is in no way separated from His Mother and would have her
participate even in the giving of the Holy Ghost to every soul.
This ineffable union is the source of all Mary's greatnesses, which are
crowned by today's triumph.
To some, that may be a
little bit "heavy" on the theology of the Trinity, but it points to an easy
about the sublime dignity of our Blessed Lady. Make no mistake about it,
Mary is a creature of God, precisely as we are creatures of God; born by
natural means of her parents Joachim and Anne, a soul created by God only a
decade or so before the birth of Christ.
Yet, in a sense, she
existed in the mind of God from all creation, as His perfect knowledge knew
unerringly that she alone—above
all others in chastity, charity, and humility—would
cooperate in His plan for the redemption of the children of Adam and Eve.
Mary was in His mind when, in the Garden of Eden, He told the serpent that
He would send “a woman who would crush its head, and for whom it would lie
in wait for her heel.”
That is why the Church
accommodates that beautiful passage from Ecclesiasticus: “Before all ages,
in the beginning, He created me.” God knew Mary, and what He would make of
Her from all eternity. When He created her soul, He allowed Her the
being free from all sin. Knowing her eternal perseverance, God allowed Mary
to benefit in advance from the Redemption to be wrought by her Son.
In eternity, Mary is
the daughter of the Father; and in time she is the Spouse of the Holy
Ghost, and the Mother of God the Son.
But it was not in God's
mind to allow her to “drop out of the picture” after the business of
Redemption was concluded and her life on earth had come to its natural end.
There is a second clause to that phrase in Ecclesiasticus: “Before all ages
... He created me, and through all ages I shall not cease to be.” We are
told that Mary spent 73 years on earth, at which time the virtually
unanimous tradition of the Church, the writings of several contemporaries,
and the infallible pronouncement of Pope Pius XII, tell us that she was
taken up to heaven body and soul.
As an early Doctor of
the Church, St. John Damascene, tells us:
She did not return to
dust, but since she was a living heaven was placed in the heavenly
tabernacles. How could she taste death, she from whom true life has flowed
to all mankind? As Mother of the living God, she was rightly taken up to
But also remember what
I read earlier from Abbot Guéranger: Our Lord “is in no way separated from
His Mother and would have her participate even in the giving of the Holy
Ghost to every soul”—that recalls what is, for us, even more significant.
Mary is not simply in heaven with her Son. She continues to be intimately
related to the three Divine Persons of the Trinity, and continues to
cooperate with them in the mystery of the salvation of individual souls,
even as she cooperated in the redemption of mankind.
At least until the end
of time Mary will continue to recognize our needs and refer them to her Son
as she did at the wedding feast at Cana; she will continue to place our
prayers before the throne of her Father—our Father; she will rejoice with
her Divine Spouse as He dwells in the souls of the godly; she will long
await the day of judgment and the resurrection to glory of the just, for
her “abode is in the full assembly of the saints.”
Learn two things, if
you will, from this feast of our Lady's Assumption. The first is that it is
possible for a human being to choose not to sin, to persevere in God's
graces unto eternal glory. The second, of course, is that we can have no
greater advocate before our Father, and her Holy Spouse. and their Divine
Son, than the Blessed Virgin Mary—who was, this day, taken body and soul
into the splendor of heaven.