Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary—15 August AD 2009

It took Titian two years (1516-18) to complete the great fresco of Assunta, whose dynamic three-tier composition and gorgeous color scheme established him as the classiest painter working north of Rome” (Wikipedia s.v. "Titian").

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Blessing of First Fruits


“I will put enmities between thee and the woman,
and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head,
and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.”[1]

    We sometimes refer to the first few chapters of the Book of Genesis—and specifically chapter 3, verse 15—as the “proto-Gospel,” for thousands of years before Christ, they set the stage for us to understand the story of salvation we would later hear in the Gospels.  We learn in the first chapter that God created the material universe from nothing, that over a period of time He made all that is in it, and that at the end of His creative efforts, “God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.”[2]  God created man “a little less than the angels,”[3] that is to say that man was created with a rational immortal soul just like the angels, but that man was a little be less because he was limited by his material nature.

    Presumably, even this material part of man was not intended to be the burden it turned out to be.  Had there been no fall from grace, it seems that men and woman would have been protected from all of the difficulties we experience in toil, suffering, sickness, and death.  By design, man was intended to be an harmonious union of body and soul.

    But them, in the third chapter, we read that at the prompting of the devil Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s orders and fell from grace.  In pain and sorrow, thereafter, would women bring forth their children. Man would eat his bread in the sweat of his brow until he returned to the earth, out of which he was taken: “for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.”[4]  But before passing this terrible sentence, God made a wonderful promise.  Addressing the devil He said: “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.”[5]

    The word “enmities” tells us something about the woman who would crush the head of the devil, for it connotes much more than some one who would just challenge and defeat the devil—it connotes the extreme antagonism of two polar-opposite beings.  If the sin of the devil was pride, the woman to come would have perfect humility.  If the devil stood for unbridled lust, the woman to come would be perfectly chaste.  If the devil were the epitome of sin, the woman would be perfectly sinless.  The woman to come would be flesh and blood, a true daughter of Eve, but of necessity—if she were to be at enmities with the devil—she would be perfectly sinless from the moment of her conception in the womb of her mother.

    Also at enmities were to be “her seed,” our Lord Jesus Christ, and the “seed” of the devil, those evil spirits that go about seeking the ruin of souls.  From Mary, His Mother, overshadowed by the Holy Ghost, our Lord would derive His own sinless flesh.  At the biological level, the flesh of Jesus was the flesh of Mary.  Again, the Immaculate Conception of Mary seems to have been a necessity, in order to provide the sinless flesh of Jesus Christ.

    It has been the perennial belief of Christians, and teaching of the Church, that Mary remained sinless all the days of her life, for her will was at one with the will of God.  From the Greeks we have a marvelous term, for they know her as “pan agios—all holy.”  “All holy” as in not having any room in her body or soul for the stain of sin.

    It has likewise been the perennial belief of Christians 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.”  While those words were the words of the saintly Pope Pius XII, uttered only in 1950,[6] they reflect the belief of the Church going back to the time of the Apostles, all of whom were witnesses to the event.

    Saint Melito, the bishop of Sardis in Lydia (just a few miles from Ephesus in modern day Turkey) was acquainted with Saint John the Apostle, and attributed to him we have a written record of Saint John’s eyewitness account.[7]  Even if it is a later writing, merely attributed to Melito, it serves notice of the unquestioned Tradition of the undivided Church in Its earliest days.  Even today, with Christendom in a state of disunity, all of the ancient Churches celebrate the Assumption or Dormition of Mary—most all of us on this very same 15th of August.

    The bodily Assumption of Mary is the quite logical outcome of God placing a woman and her Son at enmities with the devil.  Such a woman and her Son were, of necessity, free from all sin.  Such a woman and her Son would, of necessity, persevere in grace all the days of their lives.  Such a woman and her Son were of the same flesh, without any admixture of anything foreign—corruption of her flesh in the grave would have meant the unthinkable corruption of His own flesh—as though He had not triumphed over sin, suffering, sickness, and death—truly unthinkable!

    The body and the soul are made for one another.  That was God’s original plan, and apart from Jesus and Mary, it will be set right for the rest of us on the day of Judgment.  As we celebrate this feast of the Assumption we ought to be reminded of this fact.  We too ought to be at enmities with the devil—dedicated in body and in soul to do the will of God.

Immaculate Mary, conceived without sin
and taken bodily into heaven,
pray for us who have recourse to thee!


[1]   Genesis iii: 15.

[2]   Genesis I: 27.

[3]   Psalm viii: 6.

[4]   Genesis iii: 19.

[5]   Genesis iii: 15.

[6]   Munificentissimus Deus, #44 1 November AD 1950



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