On November 1, 1950, the day after the closing of the 8th International Marian Congress, held that year in Rome, Pius XII solemnly defined the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven. The exact words of the dogma of faith definition, extracted from the Bull “Munificentissimus Deus,” were: “Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”
As Catholics we believe that the body of the Blessed Virgin Mary is in heaven. By this we hold that the glorification of the Body, which will take place for us only at the end of time, was granted to Mary at the end of her earthly life. We believe that the bodies of both Jesus and Mary are now in heaven. There is, however, this difference: Jesus arose from the tomb and ascended into heaven by his own power, whereas Mary’s body was taken up to heaven by the power of her Son. For that reason, we use two different words: the Ascension of Christ and the Assumption of Mary.
Ancient belief in the Assumption was based on the Christian conviction that Christ willed his holy Mother to participate in all his privileges. Therefore, he associated her in his own glorification by an anticipated resurrection. Just as Mary received Christ on earth, so Christ in turn received Mary in heaven. Having deigned to descend to her, it was fitting that he should raise her to himself in his glory.
The corruption of the grave is a punishment for sin (Gen. 3:19). In Mary, there is not the slightest stain of sin. By her Immaculate Conception and fullness of grace she was entitled to immunity from corruption in her body. The principle of corruption which we bear within us did not exist in her. Even the bodies of the saints do not deserve to enter the kingdom of God. They must first be renewed by the hand of God. But Mary’s body — Immaculate, pure, sinless — is consequently incorruptible. From the first moment of her conception the state of the Blessed Virgin Mary was similar, but superior, to the state of Adam and Eve before the Fall.
As many of you may know, the Blessed Virgin Mary has played an important role in my life as she has brought me ever closer to her son Jesus Christ. In particular, this celebration of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary holds a near and dear place in my heart. It was on the Assumption that I had a strong reversion back to the faith as I made a Marian pilgrimage. It was on the Assumption when I decided to say ‘yes’ to God’s call to the priesthood. It was on the Assumption when I joined the seminary and professed my temporal vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Even though it was not on the Assumption, my ordination to the priesthood landed on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. None of this was planned on my part. It was just a stark reminder that God is in control and that we have a Mother in Heaven that loves us so much that she wants nothing more than to bring us ever closer to her beloved son Jesus Christ.
As I trustingly placed my life into the hands of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I encourage everyone to do the same. As a loving mother, she wants to be there for us, guiding us through life, teaching us how to love her Son and bringing us ever closer to his Sacred Heart.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!
Fr. John Poncini, Pastor