Homily for the solemnity of the Assumption of Mary - Luke 1:39-56
Father Daniel Meynen
'In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever." And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home.'
[Today's homily is not a commentary on the Gospel, but rather a simple instruction on the Mystery of the Assumption of Mary. For a commentary on Luke 1:39-56, please see my previous homilies...]
Ever since the earthly life of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and thus the Mother of God, ended, the Church has believed that she had entered Heaven, not only her soul, but her body as well. This is called the Assumption of Mary into Heaven.
Mary did not enter Heaven on her own: it is God, Jesus, who came to get her and take her with him into Paradise. This is why the term "assumption" is used, which comes from the Latin "assumere", which means "to take to oneself". When one speaks of the entry of Jesus, body and soul, into Heaven, one uses the term "ascension", which comes from the Latin "ascendere", which means "to go up", since Jesus, being God himself, did not need anyone to come and get him: he ascended by himself into Paradise.
No one saw the Lord come to take Mary into Heaven with him. But the story is told that, when Mary had breathed her last breath, Saint Thomas the Apostle was not present at the bedside of the Mother of God. Having arrived a little later, Saint Thomas asked that the tomb of Mary be opened to him in order that he might be able to contemplate her one last time, and this was granted. But, to the amazement of everyone present, when the tomb was opened, Mary had disappeared, both body and soul... Whence comes the belief, an incontestable one, in the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, both body and soul.
This belief endures to the present day, although not without causing a few problems in the relations between Catholics and Christians of other confessions. Much more than a belief, it is now a dogma of the faith, ever since Pope Pius XII, on the first of November, 1950, proclaimed the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, both body and soul, to be a dogma that every Catholic Christian must absolutely believe, under penalty of being excluded from the communion of the Church.
Is there a reason why God acted in this way towards Mary? Yes and no. No, because the Assumption of Mary is a Mystery, and any mystery, although it is not contrary to reason, is above all reason, and thus does not have any reason. Intrinsically, a mystery cannot be understood: it is an object of faith, one must believe it. One can only give its definition, which rests upon partial and fragmentary explanations. But all of these particles of reason serve only to lead one to the act of faith in the Mystery. If God gives one the grace, and thus if the faith of he or she who applies himself or herself to the study of this Mystery is very great and powerful, then it may be that the Mystery in question can be "understood", but only in faith. Thus this understanding will not be based on a reason, but rather a supernatural belief.
However, one can nonetheless give a certain reason for why God acted in this way towards Mary. Indeed, the sole reason is that Mary is the Mother of God, since she is the Mother of Jesus, who is at once both God and Man. But this sole reason can be further developed. Let us think about what Saint Paul said: "You are the Body of Christ." (1 Cor. 12:27) This means that Mary is the Body of Christ. But Mary is not the Body of Christ in the way that we are the Body of Christ. For Mary is the Mother of God, since she is the Mother of Christ. This permits us to say that Christ has an absolutely unique relation with the Body of Mary, to the extent that, in a mystical, mysterious way, the Body of Christ is also, to some extent, the Body of Mary. Thus, one can understand that, on the day of his Ascension into Heaven, Christ had already glorified, in a certain manner, the body of Mary; and that, therefore, in the evening of her life on earth, Mary necessarily had to be glorified, both body and soul.
During today's Eucharist, let us turn our eyes towards Heaven, where Jesus and Mary await us, in the company of all the saints who make up, for all eternity, the Mystical Body of Christ! Let us pray to Mary, our Mother, in order that, through Her, we might receive within us the Body and Blood of her Son, for the Glory of the Father, in the Holy Spirit!