Father Peter Clarke

From the Diocese of Bridgetown

THE ASSUMPTION OF OUR LADY INTO HEAVEN by Fr. Peter Clarke, O.P.

THE ASSUMPTION OF OUR LADY INTO HEAVEN                    by Fr. Peter Clarke, O.P.
Image courtesy of www.catholictradition.org

Mid-August – the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven – a celebration of immense importance to the Church and, indeed, to the Modern World. It was quite extraordinary that in 1950 Pope Pius X11, after having consulted bishops throughout the world, should find it necessary to define this as a dogma to be believed by Catholics as a matter of Faith that

'MARY, THE IMMACULATE PERPETUALLY VIRGIN MOTHER OF GOD, AFTER THE COMPLETION OF HER EARTHLY LIFE, WAS ASSUMED BODY AND SOUL INTO THE GLORY OF HEAVEN'.

Many of us reacted, 'What's new? For years we've been reciting the Glorious Mystery of the Holy Rosary, "The Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven."' For centuries this has been accepted as part of the believing and devotional life of the Catholic Church.

Why, then, under-score what was already taken for granted? One reason, among many others, could be that the dogmatic definition of Mary's Assumption into Heaven emphatically affirmed her as a woman whose body had brought new life into the world. … affirmed emphatically the dignity, the beauty, of the body of every mother.

The Preface of the Solemnity proclaims 'The Virgin Mother of God was taken up into heaven to be the beginning and the pattern of the Church in its perfection, and a sign of hope and comfort for your people on their pilgrim way.' And then describes how fitting it was that God 'would not allow decay to touch her body, for she had given birth to His Son, the Lord of all life, in the glory of the Incarnation.'

What was uniquely glorious during her life on earth is now uniquely glorious in her life in eternity, her femininity and motherhood. Mary was essentially, vitally, involved in the redemption of mankind through her child, Jesus, whom she had carried in her womb, brought to birth, and suckled - the Son of God Himself.

Indeed, it was through his mother, Mary, that the Son of God was a full member of the human family. Mary gave great glory to God in her mothering of the Saviour, and in her being there at the foot of the cross giving loving, motherly support to her dying Son. In so doing Mary was herself supremely, uniquely glorious in the fullness of her humanity.

We, through our baptisms, are united with Jesus as members of his Body, which is the Church. With this in mind, St. Paul cajoles the Christians of Corinth living in a milieu that he considered to be sexually hyper-active, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own;you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body? (1 Cor. 6.19-20)

Your bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit! Use your body for the glory of God! This is exciting Good News that needs to be proclaimed in our day when men and women regard themselves and each other as sex objects.Is not human parenting also being debased with genetic engineering, in vitro fertilizations, and cloning? There can never be clever, acceptable substitutes or replacements for the two-in-one-flesh love-making spouses who are bonded, so intimately, so personally.

Where is reverence for the human body in a world of terrorism and of weapons of mass-destruction; a world that has the resources and skills to provide for the hungry but acquiesces to the starvation of millions; a world that fails to provide the frail and sickly with easily available life-saving medicines? Ours has become a world which claims it as a right for a woman to have assassinated the child in her womb!!! Others make a living by providing her this 'service!'

Contemplation of the Assumption of Mary should convince us that we Christians must paint a message of beauty and of hope upon this canvas of contempt for the bodiliness of each human being. Ours is a message that inspires; one that cherishes, one that respects and safeguards, one that loves the human body here and now.Ours is a message that reaches out into eternity.

Peter Clarke, O.P.

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