The Virgin Mary’s Big Assumption

Listen to mp3 file
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary: August 15, 2010
Mass During the Day:
Rev 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab; Ps 45:10-12, 16; 1 Cor 15:20-27; Luke 1:39-56


On this day we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary: the fact that, “when the course of her earthly life was finished, she was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory,” and made Queen of heaven and earth. [CCC 966] This is the fourth of the four Marian dogmas. It also is the fourth of the five glorious mysteries of the rosary. And it is a source of joy for us, that our Blessed Mother was so favored, and a source of hope, that one day we too will share in that heavenly glory.


Today we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And the story is told that, during the years that the Holy Family lived together in Nazareth, one day Mary experienced a vision. And she went and told Joseph about it, and she said: “You know, I have the feeling that, when the course of my earthly life is done, I will be raised body and soul into heaven.” And Joseph said, “You know, Mary, that’s a pretty big assumption!”

Now we know that many a child, upon hearing the name of this mystery, “the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” has made the mistake upon which that pun is based. And, no, when we say “the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” we are not saying that either she or anyone else has taken some statement as true, just taking it for granted without investigating it. It’s not that kind of assumption.

And, indeed, our Lady didn’t get to make that kind of assumption very often. Because we hear in the Scriptures that our Lord kept surprising her; and that, when things happened like the shepherds showing up after he had been born [Luke 2:16-20], or Simeon and Anna coming with prophecies when he was brought to the Temple [Luke 2:25-38], or again when they lost track of him as a 12-year-old boy in the Temple [Luke 2:41-51]—that she kept being surprised out of any assumptions she might have been making. And she learned to keep all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. [Luke 2:19]

No, we call this the Assumption because it comes from the Latin ad-sumere, which means to take up to oneself. As Mary was taken up by our Lord into heaven. And it stands as similar, yet in contrast, to our Lord Jesus’ ascension: for he rose to heaven under his own power. But it was not under her own power that our Lady was brought up to heaven. She was rather the recipient of this gift; and that is true of her life in so many ways.

Now, I would like to play a bit with some of these words—”assume,” “assuming,” and “assumption”—this morning, as we consider what lessons we can draw for ourselves, and what hope, on this great feast day.

If we look in the dictionary under “assume” or “assumption,” at other ways in which this word is used, we find that we can speak of someone assuming a position; or assuming power; assuming responsibility. Or we can also speak of someone assuming an air of importance—which would be a sort of pretension. In these ways, we find that our Lady was not assuming.

And instead, if we want to look for someone who was, we need look no further than our first reading, where we see the figure of the red dragon, a figure of Satan himself, who most definitely was grasping, was assuming, was wanting to grab power and honor and glory for himself. We read that he said, “I will scale the heavens; Above the stars of God I will set up my throne; … I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will be like the Most High!” [Isa 14:13-14] And of course, as a very powerful, fallen angel, he is able to ascend to a certain degree, under the misuse of the power with which he was created.

But our Lady—our unassuming Lady—has been raised so much higher than he ever made it. For it is precisely because of the fact that she did not grasp; she did not take for herself; but she remained open to receive the gifts that our Lord wanted to give her; that she was then able with her Son to crush the head of that dragon, that serpent, our great enemy, Satan [Gen 3:15]; and that she was raised far, far higher, beyond all choirs of angels, to the side of our Lord himself. As we heard her say today in the Gospel reading: “he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me…” Our Lady, who was so unassuming, was assumed into heaven.

But in the dictionary we find other meanings of how we use this word. For we can also speak of someone who assumes risk, who assumes debt; that is, someone else’s debt, they take up and make their own. And in this way our Lady did assume things. She assumed others’ cares and concerns.

  • We hear in today’s Gospel about how, right after she herself had received the message and the invitation to become the Mother of God, and had said yes—well, on that day, she also learned that her elderly relative Elizabeth was 3 months pregnant. And so she assumed her cares and concerns as her own, and went in haste to the hill country of Judah, and stayed with her 3 months giving her help.
  • We hear also in the Gospel of John [2:1-5] about how, when she and our Lord Jesus and his disciples were at that wedding at Cana, and she learned that the wedding couple had run out of wine, that she assumed those cares as her own, and she communicated them to her Son with her great confidence and trust that he would know what to do, and would do it, in his great love.

And our Lady did assume risk, for, in her response to the angel’s invitation—“I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word” [Luke 1:38]—she assumed whatever risk or sorrow would come to her in her lifetime, as she lived out her calling to be the Mother of God. And indeed there was risk and sorrow and suffering that came to her, as she stayed by her Son’s side throughout his ministry, all the way to standing by his side upon the cross. Simeon told her that a sword would pierce her own soul [Luke 2:35], and it did. But this risk, this sorrow, was something that she was willing to assume, to take to herself.

And so it should be a matter of joy and encouragement to us that it is she, and not the red dragon or anyone like him, who was been exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things. It is not someone who is power-hungry, greedy, crooked; someone who is immature or desperate for attention or addicted; someone who uses others or who is full of themselves. It is not a diva; it is not a superstar; it is not a demagogue, that we celebrate having been raised body and soul to heaven this day. No, it is that creature of our Lord’s who was the kindest, the humblest, the purest; the most loving, the most sincere, and, yes, the most unassuming: his most beautiful creature. That, contrary to what we see in our world, she is the one who has been raised to be Queen of heaven and earth.

Now, there is another word that we see in the dictionary if we look up “assume,” because it is etymologically related. And that is the word “consume.” And around this word “consume” we can take other lessons from our Lady, who was assumed body and soul in to heaven.

Our Holy Father John Paul II said, 13 years ago: “Mary’s Assumption … proclaims the supernatural destiny and dignity of every human body, called by the Lord to become an instrument of holiness and to share in his glory.”

Now let us consider what it is for a body to be consumed. For, in our world today, especially as our means of electronic technology and communication grow, not fewer but more young human bodies are viewed as objects to be consumed. To be consumed, taken, devoured in lust and in sensuality. So many are encouraged to seek to consume others’ bodies in this way. So many are pressured to prepare their bodies to be taken and consumed in this way. And our Lady is an example to us of one who did not give her body to be consumed by lust and sensuality.

And we also should follow that example: not to seek to consume others’ bodies in this way; not to seek to make our bodies available to be consumed in this way; but rather, as she did, to be ready to make our bodily nature available to our Lord to be used, raised, dignified, as an instrument of his love and grace, compassion and mercy, in the lives of those around us, who need it so much. Rather than being taken and consumed, rather it is a matter of being willing to give and allow our bodies to be raised in this way, even in this lifetime.

And we can also consider a different way in which bodies can be consumed, and that is through the call to martyrdom, to which our Lord calls some people: when they actually meet death in the course of being faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ. And there are other forms of martyrdom, including the ways in which we may become weary, as day by day we serve others in love. And this becomes a way in which our bodies can be quietly consumed: not in lust but in service, as in an unnoticed, hidden, quiet way, much like our Lady, we follow her example in giving to others, in giving and giving day by day. Which does cost; and so it is easy for someone who lives faithfully in that way to become weary and even discouraged.

Our Lady was willing to give her body to be consumed in that way. And her Assumption gives us hope, that that consuming of our body, in some form of martyrdom in this life, is not the final word. For our Lady, who gave her body to be consumed in that way, was then assumed into heaven, and is now already enjoying the fruits of our Lord’s resurrection—fruits that we look forward to receiving one day in the future, on that last day, when our Lord comes in his second coming. When, as our second reading tells us, he hands over the Kingdom to his God and Father, when the trumpet will sound, and when our bodies—however they may have been consumed in love and service in this life—will be raised, transformed, immortal, incorruptible. And having given our bodies in our Lord’s service will be a badge of honor and of great glory in heaven forever.

So on this day of our Lady’s Assumption, we celebrate the fact that she did not make assumptions about God, but she rather learned from what he showed her and pondered on these things in her heart; that she, unlike Satan, did not assume power, did not assume airs, but was quite unassuming in this way; but that she was ready to assume the cares and concerns of those around her, and around us, even now; that she did not give her body to be consumed by lust but she was ready to give her body to be consumed as an instrument of grace. And so we, with all generations do call her blessed this day, and allow her to be our joy and our encouragement and strength. And so we can say to St. Joseph: Yes, this is a very big Assumption!

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Published in: on August 15, 2010 at 11:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

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