REVELATIONS 11:19, 12:1-6, 10; PSALM 45; 1CORINTHIANS 15:20-26; LUKE 1:39-56
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FR. DANIEL EVBOTOKHAI
MARY’S ASSUMPTION; OUR HOPE
The Assumption of Mary into heaven body and soul has been maintained by the faithful for centuries. It was only proclaimed a dogma of the faith by Pope Pius XII November 1, 1950. By dogma we mean a truth revealed by God, which the magisterium of the Church declared as binding. Thus, Pius XII defined the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He solemnly proclaimed that the belief whereby the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the close of her earthly life, was taken up, body and soul, into the glory of heaven, definitively forms part of the deposit of faith, received from the Apostles. By this definition the Assumption of Mary became binding on every believer.
This revealed truth is scripturally captured in today’s first reading. The reading speaks of a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. Faced with the red dragon, this woman was moved by the power of God to a place prepared for her. This revelation points to Mary as the Queen of Heaven and the response to today’s psalm says “on your right stands the queen in gold of Ophir”. The right hand is the most honourable place. Again, it say “She stands” this is the posture of a servant; which shows that although she is a queen, yet she serves and obeys him. Mary is the lowly handmaid that was exalted (Luke 1:38, Luke 1:52). Every true servant of God shall equally sit at his right hand in glory. This queen is clothed in gold of Ophir that is, in the richest garments, made of the choicest gold; by which he designs the graces wherewith the church is adorned.
In the second reading, Paul declares, that his preaching is not in vain, that their faith is not worthless, that their sins are taken away, that the dead in Christ are not annihilated, that the hope of Christians does not terminate with this life. Again, Paul says Jesus Christ is the first-fruit and the first to rise from the dead. His rising shows that bodily resurrection is possible; nay, it is inevitable for those who are in Him. Therefore, those who belong to him will also rise from the dead. Mary belonged to Christ maternally and divinely, and so she triumphed over death body and soul. Every baptized belongs to Jesus and so if we keep his laws and teachings like Mary, at the end of our earthly lives we shall be glorified!
The readings today, finally concludes with a hymn of praise from the gospel reading. This hymn is popularly called the Magnificat. Mary drew upon the language and themes of Hannah, who lived more than a thousand years before her. Praising God in similar words Mary invites generations to generations to see her as an example of a simple human touched by divine power. This song also expressed her qualities; let us look at some of them very briefly.
Mary rejoiced in her God. In verses 47-48 Mary exclaimed, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Mary rejoiced even though it was almost certain that she will be humiliated because of her unwed pregnancy. Beloved, nothing should steal your joy. If you are working for God, no amount of threats or life’s uncertainties should steal your joy. Mary rejoiced in God her Savior. So also should we.
Mary acknowledged that it was all God’s grace. In verses 48-50, “the humble estate of his servant… for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” She recognized that all she has was by God’s grace and mercy. Mary acknowledged that it was all a matter of God’s grace. So also should we.
Mary declared the victory of God over all those who portray themselves as proud and powerful. We too should declare this victory. She tied into what God was doing, not only in her generation, but in God’s wider plan. Today, we must learn to align ourselves with the broader vision of God. Our prayers should go beyond our needs into pushing for God’s will to be done. Lastly, Mary was taken into heaven body and soul at the end of her earthly life. Let us behave well so that at the end of our earthly lives we may not be driven into hell. As we choose to imitate Mary, may the hymn of praise never cease from our mouths. Amen.
MARY ASSUMED INTO HEAVEN, PRAY FOR US.
LET US PRAY
Almighty ever-living God, who assumed the Immaculate Virgin Mary, the Mother of your Son, body and soul into heavenly glory, grant we pray, that, always attentive to the things that are above, we may merit to be sharers of her glory. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.
Fr Galadima Bitrus, (OSA)
THE DEPTH AND BREADTH OF MARY’S “FULLNESS OF GRACE”
In the Gospel of St. Luke 1:26-38, we read that an Angel named Gabriel, in Hebrew, “Gabrî’el”, meaning “my strength is God” was sent by God to a virgin in Nazareth, named, Mary to announce to her the singular privilege and mission of becoming the mother of a child whom she was to name Jesus and who will also be called Son of the Most-High or son of God. Before delivering his message, the angel greeted Mary and referred to her as “favoured one” or “full of grace”, in Greek, “kecharitōmênē” (see vv. 28.30).
The Church over the ages has kept meditating, like Mary herself did, over the full implications of this angelic greeting and has come to the understanding that this implies that Mary is destined to enjoy a privileged relationship with God right from the moment of her conception, through her existence and even in death.
The first of Mary’s privileges as God’s “favoured one” is summarized under the teaching of her “immaculate conception”, which is the teaching that Mary, being full of grace, and in view of her mission to be mother of the Son of the Most-High, was preserved from the effects of the fall of man, narrated in Genesis 3 as the sin of Adam and Eve, which came to be referred to as “original sin” since the 4th century Christian era. Despite its ancient roots, this teaching came to be officially promulgated only in 1854 by Pope Pius IX with a document titled, “Ineffabilis Deus”, meaning “Ineffable or inexpressible God”, and is celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church on 8 December.
The last of Mary’s privileges on earth as “full of grace” or God’s “favoured one”, is summarized in the teaching 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.” This equally ancient teaching came to be officially proclaimed only on 1st November 1950 under the title of “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary”, by Pope Pius XII, with the document, “Munificentissimus Deus”, meaning “The Most Bountiful God”, celebrated as a Solemnity in the Roman Catholic Church August 15.
This is what we celebrate today. The Assumption constitutes, therefore, a culmination of the Church’s meditation and understanding of the depth and breadth, or the far-reaching implications of the angel’s greeting, addressing Mary as “full of grace” or the “favoured one” of God. Mary, because she was full of grace, was spared the consequences of humanity’s fall both at birth and in death, hence, she was conceived without original sin (Immaculate Conception) and did not experience corruption at death but was taken up body and soul into heaven (Glorious Assumption).
In the 1st Reading (Rev 11:19; 12:1-6.10), we read of the vision of a special woman described as clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of twelve stars, and although both the woman and the child she was to give birth to were threatened by a monstrous being described as a great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads, with a tail sweeping a third of the stars of heaven, the woman and her child are described as having been preserved from the fury of the dragon. The child was caught up to God and to his throne while the mother fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God.
The child in this vision has been understood as a reference to Jesus; consequently, the mother has been understood as a reference to Mary, both of whom, although lived under the constant threat of sin and its consequences, they never for once compromised and were never for once subdued, Jesus, because of his divine nature and Mary, because she was full of grace.
The 2nd Reading (1 Cor 15:20-27) is part of Paul’s discourse on the resurrection of Jesus as both the foundation of Christian faith and the sure sign of the resurrection of those who believe in him. The passage contrasts the origin of death through Adam’s sin and the new gift of life through the resurrection of Christ (vv.21-22). The resurrection of Christ is presented as only a first fruit, and not the last. Those who belong to him too shall rise from the dead (vv. 20.23). Going further, the passage speaks of Christ’s victory over every opposed force (ruler, dominion and power) including the force of death considered as the last or ultimate enemy to be destroyed (vv.24-27). This reveals the fuller implications of Jesus being son of God, just as the Assumption of Mary reveals the fuller implication of her being full of grace and Mother of the Son of the Most-High.
The Gospel Reading (Lk 1:39-56) is the account of Mary’s visitation to her cousin, Elizabeth. Elizabeth may have been Mary’s confidant and closest relative. Remember that in the angel’s message, he invoked Elizabeth as a reminder to Mary that nothing is impossible with God: he can make in Mary a child out of a young virgin, just as he had made in Elizabeth, her cousin, a child out of an old barren woman (cf. Lk 1:36-37).
The example of Elizabeth was the last word of the angel that culminated in Mary’s expression of total submission: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (1:38). Similarly, it was only after Elizabeth’s encounter with Mary, confirming that truly, something new and transformative has happened to her, that Mary breaks into her song of rejoicing, celebrating God’s history of doing great things with the lowly, the weak, and the hungry who serve him, and for making her part of that history (cf. 1:46-55).
In the Assumption, we celebrate Mary’s triumph over sin and the ultimate enemy, death, and we magnify the ineffable and most bountiful God with Mary for choosing her and filling her with fullness of grace, not only at conception and in the course of her life, but also in her death.
FR. PAUL OREDIPE
ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
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.
All the greatness, dignity, respect and indeed all honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary comes from her relationship with her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot understand or appreciate her role in our salvation history and subsequently in the Church without reference to Christ. Mary’s own words in the Gospel reflect this: “… the Almighty has done great things for me; Holy is his name.” Mary herself attributes all the blessedness, dignity and honour given her to the greatness of the Lord.
Today’s celebration of the Assumption is but the climax and crowning of all the other graces and honours which God conferred on her. What more could God have done? What could be greater than to bring one to himself? to be with God? She has been given the highest place among all of God’s creatures – Queen of Angels and Queen of All Saints – right through the history of Christianity.
Mary did not enter Heaven on her own: it is God, Jesus, who came to get her and take her 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.
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. It is an honour given to her for her role as the Mother of Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, a fact which makes her truly “The Mother of God”.
Again, the Assumption flows and follows quite logically and fittingly from Mary’s participation in the life of Jesus. Our destiny as human beings and much more as Christians is to be united with the Risen and Glorified Lord. As the feast of the Transfiguration recently celebrated reminded us, we shall be made like Christ and our poor bodies, indeed our whole being, will be permeated by the indescribable glory of God. Being the first to know and believe, the first to share in the life of Christ, Mary was also the first to share in the glory of the Risen Lord. The glorification of Mary is therefore the crowning of her journey of faith and singular grace.
St. John Damascene puts this very well in his words that:
“It was fitting that she who in giving birth had preserved her virginity unspotted should keep her body incorrupt even after death. It was fitting that she who had borne the Creator as a child in her bosom should have a dwelling-place with God. It was fitting that the bride espoused by the Father should dwell in the bridal-chambers of heaven. It was fitting that she who had gazed on her Son on the cross, receiving then in her breast the sword of sorrow she had been spared at his birth, should behold him seated with the Father. It was fitting that the Mother of God should enjoy the privileges of the Son and should be honoured by all creation as the Mother and Handmaid of God.”
Saint Germanus of Constantinople sees the translation of Our Lady’s incorrupt body as fitting in, not only with her divine motherhood, but with a special sanctity which attaches to its virgin state.
Thus in honouring the Blessed Virgin Mary above all other creatures – angelic or saintly – we are following and imitating God’s own initiative. God made her the Mother of His Divine Son and gave her all the graces which that position of unparalleled dignity demanded. When we honour Mary, it is really God’s infinite love and His unbounded generosity towards the human race that we are honouring. It was for us and our salvation that the Son of God came down from heaven. It was for us that He chose Mary as His mother and bestowed on her such privilege and honour, the climax of which we commemorate today in the Solemnity of the Assumption.
As said earlier, the greatness, dignity, respect, honour and privilege of the Blessed Virgin Mary can only be understood and appreciated in reference to her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is only by the grace of being the mother of God that Mary merits our honour and respect.
Mary’s Assumption into heaven should inspire us to see the worth of making every effort to live life properly, for she is a living symbol of what God calls us to be. She shows us that loyalty to Christ and a willingness to suffer with Him, to accept and carry our cross after Him, is rewarded by complete happiness in heaven. What was given to her in perfection will be given to us all if we are faithful to the truth we bear within us. The Solemnity of Mary’s Assumption is our celebration as well. It reminds us what our future will be.
Celebrating the glorious conclusion of Mary’s life and death, we see and acknowledge the joy of being faithful each day. We realize that the struggle to say ‘yes’ to the Lord is worthwhile. It is worth everything, to reject firmly everything that can separate us from God, and to respond positively to whatever draws us close to Him. In the words of Paul, the apostle: “all that we suffer in the present time is nothing in comparison with the glory which is destine to be disclosed for us …” (Rom. 8:18).
Let us then be filled with hope and confidence. In spite of our shortcomings, we too can share, we too can be transformed as Mary by the glory of God, if we struggle one day after another to be good sons and daughters of God – by listening to Him, keeping His word in our hearts and practising true love to those we meet.
In the meantime, we have trials, temptations, toils, troubles and difficulties. Let us lift up our hearts then to Mary and ask her continual Motherly protection and intercession. May we not neglect this wonderful opportunity and privilege of her patronage, in particular now and at the hour of our death.
If we remain faithful unto death, we will one day be with Mary in heaven in a resurrected body. Mary has preceded us to heaven. And, as our Mother, she will be happy when we get there. Today’s celebration, therefore, is a reminder to us that Assumption into Heaven is the goal and reward for us too, if we live and die in the way God wants us to.
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.
Mary inspires us to want to carry our cross patiently as she carried hers. She inspires us to want to serve others generously and joyfully, as she served them. Finally, she inspires us to pray regularly as she did.
This is the message contained in today’s Solemnity.
This is the good news we celebrate together.
This is the invitation that God extends to each one of us in this celebration.
Mary, Mary, Mary Mother of God.
Mary, Mary, Mary Mother pray for us.
Rev. Fr. Stephen Udechukwu
She is with us in a special way
Today we rejoice and celebrate our Mother Mary who at the end of her life here on earth was assumed into heaven. The love that exists between Mary and her Son our Lord Jesus would not have allowed Mary to be corrupted. But come to think of it, how would the woman who carried God in her womb (the first tabernacle) be allowed to be corrupted by mother earth. If Elijah in 2Kings 2:11 and Enoch in Genesis 5:22-24 were taken to heaven by the power of God, how much more the one who through her fiat gave birth to her creator. She is therefore blessed because she heard the word of God and kept it; because she is the handmaid of God; she submits perfectly to God.
Now there are four dogmas (a dogma is a religious truth officially defined by the Church as Divinely revealed) of Mary presented to us by Mariology and of course the Church.
A. Divine Motherhood of Mary: this was defined and proclaimed at the counsel of Ephesus in 431.
B. Perpetual virginity of Mary : this states that Mary was a virgin before, during and after the birth of Jesus.
C. Immaculate conception : the Churche here hold that Mary, from the first moment of her conception by a singular grace and privilege by God was kept free of every stain of original sin. It was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in his apostolic Constitution “ineffabillis Deus” December 8, 1854
D. And finally the Solemnity of Assumption which we celebrate today. This was decleared a dogma by Pope Pius XIII on November 1, 1950 in his Apostolic Constitution ” Munificentissimus Deus”. He says “By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul and by our own authority, we pronounce declear and define it to be a dogma: 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”. This we can say was an expected result of her examplary life of faith, hope and love.
The assumption is therefore Mary’s eternal reward for being perpetually a virgin, for being the immaculate mother of God, for saying YES to the plan of God, for cooperating with God. Prefiguring the assumption of Mary, the psalmist says in Psalm 132:8 “Go up Lord, to the place of your rest, you and the Ark of your strength” thus making an allusion to the ascention of Jesus in Luke 24:50-53 and the Ark of his strength which is understood as the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is why St. John the author of the book of revelation, in our first reading sees the Ark of the covenant in the vission of heaven.
What then is the secret of Mary’s greatness.? It is YES. That is the secret of her greatness and holiness. She says yes to God in all things. She did not do anything more spectacular than saying YES. Hence her assumption today is the fruit of her YES, the fruit of her holiness and obedience.
Mary stands out as a model for all of us Christians. In our gospel reading, we see her generosity and humility which she expressed by going to help her cousin Elizabeth. In the song she sang at meeting her Cousin she expresses her joy in God and acknowledged her own lowliness and God’s greatness and then she thanks God for his wonderful deeds in her. How then can a son with this kind of mother not honour her.
On what ground then would God refuse the prayers of this holy and humble woman. Today she is assumed into heaven but she is with us in a new and special way. We must therefore call on her always because God never and will not refuse her anything she asks. Hence in John 2:1-11 Jesus because of Mary had to carry out his first miracle even when his time had not come. The special place women have in the ministry of Jesus is a pointer to the special power he has also given them. Solomon would have lost his father’s throne to Adonijah in 1kings 1:5ff if his mother Bathsheba had not used her feminine power to intercede for him before David. The Jews in the book of Esther would have been wiped off by the plot of Hamman if not that Esther also used her power as a woman in Esther 5:1ff. If ordinary women can be this productive and powerful, how much more the one that carried and bore the giver of all power. Our Lady has gone up to heaven but her mother’s care has not left us. She is with us in a special way.
May our Mother Mary continue to intercede for us. Amen. GOD BLESS YOU AND HAPPY CELEBRATION.
Fr. Evaristus Okeke
LET US CELEBRATE HOLINESS!
“ Henceforth all generations will call be blessed ” (Lk.1:48b)
The Assumption of Mary is one of the dogmas of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Being a dogma, it appeals to our sense of reasoning but more importantly, it commands our faith. We agree and belief that Mary has assumed into heaven not just because is it reasonable but also because the God to whom nothing is impossible or difficult, has revealed and made it so.
The Assumption of Mary, although not explicitly stated in the pages of the Scripture, sheds light on the truth of the scripture. If there is truth in the Scripture, then the Assumption is not unthinkable. In the second reading of today, St. Paul tells us that as all men died in Adam, so also have all men being resurrected in Christ Jesus. Jesus himself said, I am the resurrection and the life, anyone who believes in me, though he dies, shall live forever and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die (cf. John 11:25-26). The integrity of a man is not measured by just what he says but by his ability to do as he has said. If heaven does not exist, and if it is not possible for us to belong there, then the words of Jesus will bear no meaning and his incarnation will be of no essence.
Mary’s assumption into heaven speaks of the truth that those who die in Christ will experience His resurrection. The assumption of Mary is her experience of Christ resurrection. However, Mary had to give her co-operation for the truth of the gospel to be realized in her life. The one to whom the angel said “Hail” and announced that she has found favour with God, strove all through her life to preserve that favour she found with God. Mary is assumed into heaven not just because she bore the Son of God but because she persevered in holiness. It is her holiness that is rewarded by the glorious assumption.
The dogma of Mary’s assumption states that after her the completion of her earthly life, she was taken up to heaven body and soul. This is something only God can do. My dear friends, in our daily struggle against sin wherein the devil continually promises us certain pleasures if we do as he wills, we must continue to overcome sin with the truth that what God can do is that which no other is able to do for us. We must bear in mind that each time we sin, we become another “Esau” who sells his birthright for a porridge. Birthright does not exist outside of one’s home and one’s Father.
Just as Mary was never pre-informed that she will be the Mother of God, so also she was never told that if she perseveres in holiness, she will be assumed into heaven. Every temptation to sin tells that the struggle to remain holy is not worth it. It blocks our foresight in perceiving with our eyes of faith what only God can do for us if we remain faithful to him. Beloved in Christ, our God is a God of surprises. The surprises of God is not conceivable by the feeble mind of man, but it comes to us when we persevere to the end.
Again, we see that Mary’s assumption took place after the completion of her earthly life. There are so many things we ask of God in this life. Sometimes we may be depressed if expected answers are not coming to the questions we ask in prayers. We have also often times heard some people evaluating the presence of God in the life of man on the basis of the comfort the man has gotten in his life. Beloved, while it is true that God answers prayers, it is very necessary for us to note that what is most important is what becomes of us after our earthly existence.
We live in a world where there is so much effort to avoid poverty. People do all sought of things to make money. They say that Money is good. However true this statement is, let us be aware that if after making all the money we can, but we lose our souls, we are the worse losers. The best paradigm for evaluating life is not worldly comfort but heavenly glory. If you can make heaven, then you are the best.
In the gospel reading, Mary hastened to the house of Zechariah when she heard that Elizabeth is with child. Her purpose for visiting Elizabeth was to share in her joy. This joy was unique because it was a joy of what only God could do. The situations surrounding Elizabeth’s conception proves that the conception was far beyond a biological process. So, Mary hastened to celebrate the Grace of God in life of Elizabeth and Zachariah. My dear friends, from this we learn to be mindful of what we celebrate. Whatever you celebrate is what you cherish and what you cherish is what we you wish for yourself. Most times, these wishes are realized in one way or the other.
Like Mary, let us learn to celebrate the Grace of God. Let us learn to celebrate holiness. Let us stop making others feel comfortable, special and loved because of their money when we know that the source of their wealth is not genuine. Let us stop shedding those who perpetuate evil just because of the relationship we share with them or the favour we derive from them. Let us stop justifying our wrong deeds when we are corrected or worse still attacking the one who corrects us. You cannot celebrate sin here on earth and expect to be in heaven. Let us Celebrate Holiness for that is crucial to our belongingness to heaven. God Bless You!
Fr Galadima Bitrus, (OSA)