Today is the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, body and soul, into Heaven. Sidestepping the issue of whether Mary actually died, this day is one of the divisive issues between Catholics and Protestants. There is much wisdom in the Church’s veneration of Mary, and much in Mary’s life of perfect obedience to the will of God for all pro-lifers to ponder.
Beginning at the end, why would God spare Mary from bodily corruption in the grave? Consider this vision of John the Apostle in Revelation 11:19 ff.
“Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery…”
The text goes on to reveal the birth of Jesus, Satan’s attempts to destroy Him (through Herod’s slaughter of the innocents) and Mary’s flight into Egypt. In two verses, back-to-back John discusses the Ark of the Covenant. Mary is that Ark of the New Covenant. Just as the first Ark housed the word of God, Mary’s yes meant that for nine months she contained within herself and nurtured The Word, who IS God. Her assent began the final chapter in God’s plan for our salvation, and the dignity of women would be forever changed.
Bearing in mind that Jesus was as St. Paul tells us, “a man like us in all things, but sin”, it’s worth contemplating that the perfection of His human nature required Mary to be the best of teachers in raising Him, by word and by example. Her assent to be the mother of the Messiah was one more act of obedience in a lifetime of perfect obedience to God’s will, and continued to the foot of the cross and beyond.
Though Jesus felt His time to reveal Himself had not yet come, he acquiesced to Mary at the wedding feast in Cana and performed his first miracle; the Creator in obedience to His mother. As my nine year old daughter presciently observed, “Even God has to obey His mother.”
Mary was preserved from corruption, not merely for allowing her body to be used in the birth of the Messiah, but because Mary never sinned. Jesus couldn’t sin because His divine nature would not permit it. Mary wouldn’t sin because she loved God with every fiber of her being. The only human to achieve human perfection was a woman.
For that achievement, for her role in salvation history, God preserved the Ark of the New Covenant. He did so not only for Mary, but as a sign of promise to us, the foreshadowing of the Resurrection on the Last Day.
How easy it could have been for Mary to say no using all of the modern day rationale used for abortion. She was single, a teen, poor, could lose her betrothed, faced certain ridicule as impure… But her selfless “Yes”, her sorrows that would come with that yes meant salvation for the world.
With close to 2 Billion abortions worldwide since 1960, how many poor teens and other young mothers facing ridicule and enormous self-sacrifice said no, and in so doing have deprived the world of the scientists and physicians who would have discovered cures for diseases such as cancer, HIV, malaria, etc. How many leaders have been aborted who would have prevented wars and brought greater justice and equanimity to their people? How many Priests, Deacons, Religious, Ministers, Rabbis will we never know? The list of thwarted good is endless.
Mary is the archetype for authentic feminism. Not even God refused her request at a wedding. She was powerful precisely because of her submission. She was strong and brave, standing at the foot of the cross when 10 Apostles fled in terror. She was gathered with the Apostles on Pentecost and received the Holy Spirit with them. She lived among them until her day of Assumption, not as a guest or a ward, but as their Mother, with all that goes with that role.
So today we honor Mary for the good and graces that flow through our lives because of her lifetime of saying yes to God’s perfect plan. We look within ourselves at the pridefulness that keeps us from being all that God wants us to be, and we take renewed strength from those graces that flow from Mary’s life, through her Son, and are brought to perfection in us through His Holy Spirit.
It’s a great day.