This Sunday we commemorate the assumption of Mary, body and soul, into heaven. When we die, unlike Mary, our bodies will rest in the earth until the final resurrection and are then joined again to our souls in the “new creation.” How this new spiritual body will differ from our present body is seen in the resurrected body of the Lord. Jesus was no longer bound by the limitations of space and time and could appear at will. He could pass through doors and yet was very much analyzable as shown by the
probing fingers of St. Thomas.
Our bodies decay and die because we have chosen the decay and death of sin. Mary, conceived without original sin, is spared this final decay through the merits of Jesus. At the end of her life she was taken body and soul to heaven, the first after the resurrected Lord. Her assumption highlights the dignity of the body and the body’s necessary nature to the full human person. We are fully human as enfleshed spirits and not simply spirits like the angels.
The vigil and day Mass each have Scriptures which point to Mary’s role in salvation, the reality of death, bodily decay and the final victory of God in all things. The vigil takes from the Book of Chronicles and describes the dignity shown to the old Ark of the Covenant, which carried within it the “presence of God.” The Ark carried within it the 10 words of the Commandments. It foreshadowed Mary who became a “living Ark” carrying in her womb the presence and person of God in Jesus. One of her titles after the resurrection is “Ark of the Covenant.” The day Mass has Revelation’s vision of the Ark of the Covenant in heaven. This image is followed in the next verse by the “woman clothed with the sun.” Scholars have seen in this woman Mary, along with the church or Israel personified as a woman. Just as Mary gives birth to the Messiah, so too does Israel. The church brings forth a child also, all of her born-again children in baptism. Each interpretation is valid and equally hated by Satan the Dragon who seeks to destroy the child.
St. Paul’s Corinthian Letter is read at both Masses and talks of the resurrection of all, “each one in proper order.” Mary is the first after Jesus. The vigil’s Gospel shows where the true greatness of Mary lies, as the one who “hears the word of God and keeps it,” par excellence. She is the model and mother of all Christians. The day’s Mass records Mary’s song of praise to God who has been faithful to his promises of salvation through the sending of a Savior in her womb. She echoes the holy women of old in giving glory to God. Mary’s “yes” was sought by God and in this we see God’s majestic humility. His love does not force, it asks. He awaits our response too, a simple “yes,” in body and soul.
Questions for reflection
1. Where is it difficult to say “yes” to God?
2. Do I recognize the body’s dignity, even in decay?
3. How can I be more of a child of Mary?
Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville, and St. Edward Parish, Mackville.