Christian poets over the centuries have sung the praises of Mary, the Mother of God and our Mother. The American poet, Longfellow, described her as our fallen human nature’s “solitary boast,” for Mary was sinless from the first moment of her conception.
The solemnity of Mary’s Assumption, celebrated on August 15, is properly understood in light of her Immaculate Conception. The Second Vatican Council, reaffirming the tradition (and Pius XII’s infallibly declaring the Assumption as a dogma of Catholic faith in 1950), taught that “the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory when her earthly life was over and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things.” (Lumen Gentium #59)
God, in view of her special role in the history of salvation as the Mother of the Incarnate Word, anticipated the fruits of Christ’s redemption and preserved Mary from all sin — original and actual.
In celebrating this Marian feast day, observed as a holy day of obligation, we acknowledge that God does indeed keep his promises. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin “anchors” our hope that God created the human race for more than just death. As we learned in the catechism of our youth, “God has made us to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this life and to be happy with him in the next.” Like Mary, each one of us is created in the image and likeness of God; and, like Mary, each one of us is called to a future of hope, realized in the vision of God in heaven.
Through her Assumption into heaven, Mary already participates in that future of hope to which we as a pilgrim people aspire — thanks to the grace of baptism which has made us children of God and heirs to the promises of Christ. In his second encyclical, "Spe Salvi," Pope Benedict XVI urged that the Christian community — as a counterpoint to the secularism of our age — rediscover this eschatological perspective that has always been at the heart of the Gospel proclamation.
St. Paul writes: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:28-30)
These words are more than fulfilled in the life of the Virgin Mary who became the Mother of our Savior, “the first born among many brothers and sisters.” Indeed, Paul’s words have a unique application to Mary: for in her Immaculate Conception, she was “predestined”; in the mystery of the Annunciation, she was “called”; in her Assumption, body and soul into heaven, she was “justified”; and in her coronation as Queen of Heaven and Earth, she was “glorified.”
By the will of her Son from the cross, we are her children. And though we are sinners, we make Mary our boast. We turn to her in confidence and we ask that, through her prayers and by following her example of obedient trust in God’s will, we too might be conformed to the image of Jesus, her Son. O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us sinners that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ!
Reprinted with permission from the Florida Catholic, official newspaper for the Archdiocese of Miami.