First Reading: Rev 11:19a; 12:1-6a. 10ab; Psalm: 45. R. v. 10b; Second Reading: 1Cor 15:20-27; Gospel: Lk 1:39-56
MARY’S PRESERVATIVE REDEMPTION
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
Today, the Church celebrates the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven. The Assumption of Mary which is an old tradition in the Church is a dogma that was officially defined by Pope Pius XII in 1950 in his encyclical Munificentissimus Deus. Relying both on the Scriptures and on apostolic tradition, the Pope declared that “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”
The word “assumption” is rooted in the Latin verb “assumere” which means “to take to oneself.” The doctrine of Mary’s Assumption teaches that Jesus took his mother to Himself in Heaven at the end of her earthly life. Unlike the ascension of Christ which happened by Christ’s own power; the assumption of Mary into heaven was God’s action and not by Mary’s doing.
To substantiate the belief in the assumption of Mary into heaven, we may have to understand the divine gift(s) enjoyed by our first parents at the beginning of creation. This gift is called the praeter natura (beyond nature) gift.
Preternatural gift bestows the following faculties:
- Infused knowledge (intimate and certain knowledge of God).
- Absence of concupiscence (perfect balance of our passion, sense, emotions, intellect and will to restrain sin).
- Bodily immortality (absence of death and decay)
Adam and Eve lost the preternatural gift after the fall. Consequently, all creation lost it too. But Mary did not lose this gift because of the special honour of Preservative Grace or Preservative Redemption that preserved Mary from sin at the time of her natural conception. This is the basis to the belief in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Mary conceived without any stain of sin). And this is why Mary is called the New Eve.
We can also establish the sinless state of Mary from the salutation of the angel Gabriel: “Hail Mary, full of grace” (Lk 1:28). Grace is the free unmerited gift of God that helps us to overcome our human weaknesses and sin so as to respond to God’s will. If Mary was addressed as “full of grace” by the angel Gabriel; this then implies the sinlessness of Mary. For one who possesses the fullness of God’s grace is incapable of sinning. Elizabeth further buttressed this fact when through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit she said; “of all women, you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” (Lk 1:42).
God gave Mary the privilege of the preternatural gift so that she could be the worthy mother of his Son Jesus Christ. Christ therefore became the new Adam to restore what was lost by the old. St Paul in the second reading of today made reference to this; “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” If therefore Christ the new Adam and the sinless Son of God ascended into heaven body and soul; it logically follows that Mary the sinless new Eve would share the same fate with her beloved son. If the patriarchs Enoch and Elijah were taken into heaven alive (Gen 5:24; Hb 11:5; 2Kgs 2:11); how much more the mother of the divine Son of God.
So it was on the ground of Mary’s ‘preservative grace’ which freed her from original sin and qualified her to be the worthy mother of the Son of God that the church declared that she was assumed into heaven body and soul after death. So confidently, the church teaches that the body of Mary did not see the corruption of death. This teaching is a dogma. And dogma is defined as a truth revealed by God which the magisterium of the Church declared as binding to all Catholics. The Dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven is therefore an infallible pronouncement and a mandatory belief to every Catholic.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church “The Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians” (CCC 966).
Mary prophesied in the gospel reading of today that “all generation shall call her blessed” (Lk 1:48). This prophecy of Mary is fulfilled till this day as the church continually honours her blessedness. Mary reigns in heaven as the Queen of the universe. She is revealed as the woman with a crown of twelve stars in the first reading of today. As we celebrate Mary’s assumption into heaven, we are called to co-operate with God’s grace made accessible through Mary and Jesus Christ the fullness of God’s divine grace. So that we may also share in the divine life of heaven our true home.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Our Lady assumed into heaven, intercede for us to persevere in holiness of life till the end of our earthly life. Amen.