Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Assumption of Mary

As I grow in my faith, I can’t help but grow in my deep love and admiration of Mary, the Mother of God. There is no doubt or argument among any of the mainstream Christian religions that Mary is the Mother of God. There is also no argument that she was a virgin (at least at the time of the conception and birth of Jesus). We, as Catholics, believe that she remained a virgin throughout her life. A further discussion on her perpetual virginity is for another day. Since Mary, of her own free will, accepted the gift (and great burden) of conceiving Jesus, she sacrificed a “normal” life of the time. The Nativity narratives we all read from Luke around Christmas time point to just the beginning of her sorrow. Her sorrow, of course, reaches it’s climax at the foot of the cross 33 years later on Good Friday. How can we not have a deep love for this woman? She was totally human, not divine and without any merit aside from that given by God (We don’t worship her!). While she was rather astute in Jewish beliefs, and had an understanding of the importance of the coming messiah, she could not truly understand what she was in for, but her great love for God brought her to her “fiat”…her yes…and the rest is history…eternity…The question today, is how can we properly explain the “Assumption of Mary” to our separated brethren. This, of course, is the belief that she was taken “body and soul” into heaven. Let’s take a gander:
To approach most “Bible Loving” Protestants (I am a Catholic “Bible Lover”), we must remember that the ONLY authority most of them believe in is the Bible itself. The doctrine of Sola Scritpura eliminates any other authority other than the bible. The best way to present a Catholic argument to Protestants then, is from a biblical referential point of view. I will attempt to do that. Another way to present an argument is with reason and logic.
Our first point to make from a biblical sense is that not everything that happened was put into print. Remember, Jesus did not known write a single word. The scriptures are recounts and instructions for his Church. Jesus preached his Gospel. Many things were common knowledge of the day, and did not need to be written. Jason Everet of Catholic Answers (link attached)
points to a few biblical references:
Paul advised Timothy to take as his norm the sound words that Paul spoke to him (1 Tim. 1:13). Timothy knew that even if a particular teaching was not written down, Christians were still expected to abide by it (2 Thess. 2:15) and to defer to the authority of Church leaders (Heb. 13:17). The only way a person could know what these unwritten binding traditions were was to keep their ear to the mouth of the Church. If the Church were merely a collection of saved individuals-none with any real authority over the others-then Scripture would not tout her as the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim. 3:15) whom we must listen to or be cut off (Matt: 18:17).
Jason Everet, who is a well respected Catholic scholar and author, is not so much arguing the assumption as he is arguing for the authority of the church. Another “amazing” source for teaching on the authority is John Martignoini’s free MP3 download “One Church” at To properly discuss the assumption, the point of strength truly comes from understanding and truly believing in the authority of the Catholic Church and the Pope. This, of course, can be a challenge to explain to protestants.
Mathew 18: 15-20 is a great foundation to begin the discussion of authority:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses’. If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”---this is a direct giving of authority upon the church.

There are, however, a few implicit references in the bible to the assumption. Both Enoch and Elijah are assumed into heaven (Heb. 11: 5; 2 Kings 2:11). We see bodies of “saints” raised after Jesus death:
…tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many (Mat 27: 52-53). St. Paul tells us “…if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him”(Romans 8:17). We all are promised this if we “suffer” for Christ. By taking Mary, body and soul, he granted her this gift sooner, rather than later, in a unique way.
The book of Revelation reads:
“Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple” (Rev. 11:19). “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 brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron” (Rev. 12: 1,5).

Everet’s article quotes St. Robert Bellarmine, “ Who could believe that the ark of holiness, the dwelling of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit, crumbled into dust? I shudder at the very thought that the virginal flesh of which God was conceived and born, which nourished him and carried him should have turned to ashes or been given as food to worms.”
It is time to move toward logic, truth, and history. The idea of resurrecting the body is a big part of Catholic “End Time” theology. This is not exclusive to Catholicism. Many of the more “historical” protestant churches pray the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed. “…I believe in…the resurrection of the body and life everlasting” or We believe…the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting” (or similar verbage). What is this saying? We will all be resurrected; to join our body and souls in perfect union for eternity. We, of course, will spend that eternity in heaven or hell. Most Protestants agree in one way or another that we will be in heaven in some form. Why, then, is it so difficult to believe that Mary, chosen from all eternity to bare the Baby Jesus, to endure unimaginable sorrow, is was not given a “perfect ticket” to heaven. Martin Luther believed in the assumption 400 + years before Pope Pius XII proclaimed (1950 Munificentissisimus Deus) it as doctrine. As stated earlier, there is no dispute that Enoch and Elijiah were assumed into heaven, why then could Mary not have been assumed into heaven. Logic, coupled with history will tell us a story as well. No one has claimed to have the body of Mary. People have the head of John the Baptist, the body of Saint Nicholas; why then has no one claimed the body of Mary? Could it be that she never really died…at least the way we normally define death. Wouldn’t the body of Mary, or any relic thereof be a well sought after treasure?
As with many faith issues, we must remember the words of Christ, “ whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it” (Luke 18: 17). Not everything is understood fully at an “intellectual level”. When we surrender ourselves to the love of God and the wisdom of His church, we find the security and happiness of a child in the arms of his/her mother.


Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I was hoping you could help me with your belief in the 'perpetual virginity' of Mary. :)

Thanks a ton. Not having done something like this before, I suppose if you could email me on mugsybalony@gmail that would be much appreciated.

Thanks and look forward to hearing from you,

-Curious Joe

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