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(Part 10)


Feast of the Assumption
August 15, 2010

“You will not suffer your holy one to see corruption.”
(Acts 13:35)

It is a dogma of the Catholic Church that Mary was assumed incorrupt into heaven. This is the dogma of the Assumption.

Is the Assumption a reasonable assumption?

Well, first of all, there were other human beings who went up to heaven without undergoing death and decay.

First there was Enoch. “Few on earth have been made the equal of Enoch” (Sir 49:14a). “Then Enoch walked with God, and he was no longer here, for God took him.” (Gen 5:24). “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and ‘he was found no more because God had taken him.’ Before he was taken up, he was attested to have pleased God.” (Heb 11:5).

Then there was Elijah. “Elijah was a human being like us” (Jas 5:17a), but God used him mightily, prompting Sirach to proclaim, “How awesome are you, Elijah! Whose glory is equal to yours?” (Sir 48:4). As Elijah and Elisha “walked on conversing, a flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.” (2 Kgs 2:11). “Elijah, for his burning zeal for the law, was taken up to heaven.” (1 Mc 2:58).

God allowed these two great men to go to heaven without dying. So why not for the woman who is full of grace, whom all ages call blessed, who gave birth to the Savior of the world? Why not for the woman who greatly pleased God with her yes? Why not for this great woman of faith and obedience? Why not for her who not only literally walked with God while on earth, but nurtured and raised Him?

Furthermore, Mary was conceived without sin. Now death and corruption are a consequence of sin, “for the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23a). Our first parents sinned, and brought death upon themselves and upon us all. “Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all” (Rom 5:12).

Now might it not have been indeed fitting that Mary, conceived without sin and full of grace, would also not suffer the consequence of sin? Is it not fitting that the body that bore the Savior of the world would not undergo corruption?

However, it is not known whether Mary actually did not die and was brought to heaven alive, or that she died and then was taken to heaven incorrupt. If the latter, her death would still not be a consequence of sin but rather, in the mysterious ways of God, a means of participating more fully in the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus her Son.

Jesus died, and it would be reasonable that Mary, who is not superior to Jesus, would also die. Much more so, Mary was very much a part of salvation history and God’s plan for the redemption of humanity through Jesus. This is why Mary shared profoundly in the sufferings of Christ, all the way to the cross. This is also why Mary would share in Jesus’ death, which, together with his resurrection, would redeem the world.

So Jesus and Mary would both have undergone death, but neither underwent corruption.

David could have spoken prophetically of the assumption of Mary, when he said, “Therefore my heart is glad, my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure, for you will not abandon me to Sheol, nor let your faithful servant see the pit. You will show me the path to life, abounding joy in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.” (Ps 16:9-11).

The parallels of David’s words with Mary’s life are too striking. Mary too rejoiced with her soul and spirit. She was the faithful servant. And so her body dwelt secure, not descending into the abode of the dead, but being raised up along the path to life, eternal life in heaven in the presence of God.

(Reprinted from “Forty More Days with Mary,” Day 11)

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