Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Assumption of Mary 2018

What is so important about the Assumption of Mary? What significance is there to this celebration?

Mary is both our strength and in an ignorant world, she is perceived to be our weakness. Before you conclude that I have committed a grave sin, let me clarify. Firstly, she definitely is our strength because of she is the Mother of God. Secondly, she is perceived to be our weakness because some ignorant Protestants believe that we worship her. The fact that this so-called dogma was proclaimed in 1950 might just lend itself to this perception. One cannot be further from truth when one holds this position.

Catholics hold her to be their strength, as mentioned earlier, not only because she is the Mother of God but because of who we are. Why? In a perfect paradise, in our prelapsarian innocence, humanity would be endowed with the preternatural gifts of integrity meaning that both our body and soul were united. But in our postlapsarian perdition, in our fallen state, there arose the discrepancy which St Paul so aptly described to the Romans, “For I do not do the good that I want to do. But the evil that I hate is what I do”.

This is our present state: We all struggle. But, somehow, in a self-help, positive-thinking, self-made environment, we seemed have banished the word “struggle” from our spiritual vocabulary. After all, like the Bionic Man, we can, if we think positively, help or reinvent ourselves. A line from the Salve Regina draws us back to our mundane morass—ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle—To thee do we send forth our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.

Now, the two major Marian celebrations are in a sense holistic or integral in the treatment of the human person. In the Immaculate Conception, the feast touches on the human soul whereas today, the Assumption addresses the body that we have.

There is a war within us, a battle between good and evil which is waged daily in this lacrimarum valle. We like to think of ourselves as disciples but when we speak of discipleship, what is implied is discipline. In order to excel in a specialty or branch of knowledge, discipline is what we most need but it is also the least that we want. Ask any PhD candidate about what it means to write a thesis. Distraction, laziness and procrastination—all these are indications of a lack of discipline. But, it runs on logic that nobody likes “punishment” unless he is a masochist, that is, someone who enjoys punishment. True? And yet, when we want a beautiful body, it takes a lot of discipline and the funny thing is some are willing to pay that price for a perfect body to die in, but to follow the Lord closely it is another ball game altogether.

You see that the aim of the Assumption is not to promote a healthy body per se but to remind us that the body is part and parcel of the work of salvation brought about by Christ. When we die, even though the body may suffer corruption, at the Resurrection, our bodies will be reunited with our soul. Therein, the Catholic prohibition of scattering one’s ashes/“cremains” as if one were a free-spirited soul.

Two prefaces can be placed side by side. The Assumption and the Ascension. Part of the Assumption’s Preface reads like this:

For today the Virgin Mother of God
was assumed into heaven
as the beginning and image
of your Church’s coming to perfection
and a sign of sure hope and comfort to your pilgrim people.
This imagery draws its inspiration from the Preface of the Ascension which sounds goes like this: 

For the Lord Jesus, the King of glory,
conqueror of sin and death,
ascended to the highest heavens, ...
... he ascended, not to distance himself from our lowly state
but that we, his members, might be confident of following
where he, our Head and Founder, has gone before.

The discipline we endure in this life is in order that we may follow our Head and Founder and Mary being the foremost of Christ’s disciples is assumed into heaven because she alone is the one perfect dedication—body and soul—to her Lord and Saviour. There, she, who is everything like us except by the grace of God preserved from sin, becomes the beacon for those of us who are struggling in this valley of tears, hoping one day to follow. As a fellow pilgrim, this Mother of ours is certainly the most powerful advocate and also the greatest help we can ever have in our journey. As Lumen gentium gently reminds: Mary is now in a position to exercise fully her "motherhood in the order of grace," without interruption until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect (LG 62).

Finally, these days, people have been lamenting about the unusually warm weather that has resulted in many illnesses. If you feel that the heat is intolerable and your sickness uncomfortable, Assumption is truly a great reminder. Why? Hell or eternal damnation is not even an iota close to a trillion times worse. In fact, whatever we suffer now will be infinitely and infernally multiplied in hell. Hence, Assumption serves as a reminder to desire that which is boundlessly pleasing and joyful. Therefore, to Mary who is in heaven, we entrust the care of our souls and ask that despite our weaknesses, she never gives up on succouring us so that one day, bruised or battered, we may knock on heaven’s door and there, our Lord will open it for us and welcome us into the Kingdom which He has won by His life, death and resurrection.