Reflection on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Year B. 2018
– By Fr Ugo Ikwuka
There was this story about a carpenter who was fixing a Church ceiling. As he worked, a woman came in to pray at the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary inside the Church. To prank the woman, the carpenter whispered, “Woman, this is Jesus.” The woman ignored him. The carpenter whispered again, more audibly “Woman, I say this is Jesus.” Again, the woman ignored him and continued with her prayers. Finally, the carpenter spoke the third time “Woman, don’t you hear me? This is Jesus.” Now, thinking that the voice was coming from the crucifix, the woman looked up and said, “Be quiet Jesus, I’m talking to your mother.”
So, why do Catholics treasure devotions to Mary and have doctrines about Mary such as her Assumption which is celebrated on the 15th of August?
First of all, it is because of Mary’s special place in the life of the Church which is defined by her being chosen to be the mother of Jesus, his only human parent. This alone gives her a uniqueness shared by no other person.
Furthermore, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church noted, “By her complete surrender to God’s will, her cooperation with his Son’s redemptive work and her disposition to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, Mary is the Church’s model of faith and charity”.
On the other hand, Catholics exalt Mary because we want to tell the full story. Just as the full story of human fall in Adam cannot be told without Eve, so also the full story of our Redemption in Christ cannot be told without Mary. In fact, Jesus and Mary came to reverse the roles of Adam and Eve as can be seen in the following contrasts;
- In the old order, the woman (Eve) came from the body of the man (Adam), but in the new order the man (Jesus) comes from the body of the woman (Mary).
- In the old order, the woman (Eve) first disobeyed God and led the man (Adam) to do the same, in the new order the woman (Mary) was first to obey God when she said ‘let it be done unto me according to thy will’ and she then raised her son to say exactly the same (though Jesus would have preferred the cup of suffering to pass him by, in the footsteps of his mother Mary he said in obedient surrender ‘let thy will be done, not mine’).
- While Adam and Eve had fun together disobeying God, Jesus and Mary suffered together doing God’s will.
- In the old order, Adam and Eve shared immediately in the punishment resulting from the fall as they were driven out of paradise. In the new order, Jesus and Mary share immediately in the glory resulting from their faithful collaboration in human redemption; Christ with Ascension, Mary with Assumption.
Assumption teaches that at the end of her earthly life, the Blessed Virgin Mary was taken up body and soul into heaven. This is a way of saying that because of the dignity of her motherhood and her own personal submission to God’s will at every stage of her life, Mary takes precedence over everyone in the sharing of God’s glory which is the destiny of all of us who die united with Christ her Son.
Assumption therefore balances Ascension and is thus the ultimate proof of the equality of man and woman before God as it crowns the faithful collaboration of man and woman in the work of our salvation.
This collaboration shows that when devotion to Mary is properly made, it does not lead Christians away from Christ as some non-Catholics would think but it rather leads Christians more deeply into the mystery of Christ. We see this harmony clearly demonstrated at the Wedding Feast at Cana where Mary commands us to “Do whatever Jesus tells us”.
On another note, Assumption underscores the sacredness of the human body which we have neglected for so long because we grow up with a morality that associates the body with vanity while the soul is recommended to be treasured and preserved.
Assumption teaches that eternity is for our bodies as much as our souls. The tragic negligence of the human body today is demonstrated in the subjection of the body to different forms of trauma and abuses for instance through the gluttony of over-eating, abuse of substances, drugs, alcohol and other stimulants.
Today, the body is also subjected to the trauma and indignity of violent piercings and self-harming. The body is also violated through pornography, indecent exposures, involvement in illicit, perverted and distorted sexual activities.
Ironically too, some supposedly body enhancing measures end up traumatising the body; some have lost their skin to tanning or toning while others have lost body parts to enhancement surgeries.
Some starve the body to the point of becoming anorexic because they want to have beach bodies. I once watched as a very skinny model said in the television that she lives on one apple a day to maintain her shape. She looked like a scarecrow.
One really hopes that God who made us would recognise us on the last day. And don’t forget that when the body is so traumatised, it can affect the spirit.
We usually don’t concentrate when the body is famished, that’s why it is said that the hungry man is an angry man.
Assumption teaches that we should care for our bodies as salvation is for the whole person – body and soul, and for both genders – male and female.